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Anquetil Alone: The Legend of the Controversial Tour de France Champion By Paul Fournel

Release date: 19th May, 2018
Publisher: Pursuit Books

List Price: Ł11.99
Our Price: Ł9.99
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The Tour de France, which attracts more than 5 million roadside spectators, making it the world’s largest sporting event in terms of a live audience, gets under way on the beautiful Ile de Noirmoutier in a little over two weeks.

Holiday crowds will gather on the Vendée coast, rigging up roadside barbeques supplemented with a generous selection of local wines, after which the caravel will crawl by two hours before the race, providing sponsors with an opportunity to throw t-shirts, hats and other merchandise to children of all ages. An occasional band will strike up, copious quantities of wine will be consumed and the race will pass by in a blur.

You suspect that five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil would have appreciated the crowd’s collective enjoyment.

His rather unfair reputation as something of a cold fish is, to a degree, tempered in Paul Fournel’s unconventional biography, ideally suited to Anquetil’s maverick personality.

During a rest day in Andorra during the 1964 Tour, as his co-riders went out on a short ride, Anquetil instead attended a party where he wolfed down barbequed lamb and plenty of sangria. Finding it difficult to get going when the race resumed the following day and with the formidable Envalira climb ahead, his team director drove to his side and handed him a bidon (water bottle) filled with champagne. It did the trick; from being almost five minutes down on the race leader prior to the champagne, Anquetil would come back to win his fifth Tour.

With matinee idol looks and a profile “like one on a medal,” Anquetil was a detached character whose actions were often interpreted as cocky and egotistical. On the eve of the 1961 Tour, for example, he declared he would take the yellow jersey on the first day and wear it throughout the race. He did. Supreme confidence or boastful?

According to author Paul Fournel, “no man was ever better suited than [Anquetil] to ride a bike” and in this eclectic collection of poetic vignettes, stories and short anecdotes, there is a deep sense of oneness between man and machine; competing on it was part of Anquetil’s soul. If you’re off to the Vendée, take and read this book – it’ll put you in the mood for the start of the Tour on 7th July.

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