Jacques Anquetil


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A French professional road-racing cyclist, born in Normandy, whose dominance in the sport in the late 1950s and early 1960s was combined with an unorthodox personal life and an honesty about his training methods. He was the first rider to win the Tour de France five times, four times in succession from 1961 to 1964, often gaining his advantages in the shorter, sprint-like time trials. With blonde hair and blue eyes Anquetil had the look of a playboy and the concomitant lifestyle, arriving at his competitive venues at the wheel of a sports car. He drank alcohol and smoked, and was clear about his preparatory methods, stating that ‘You can't ride the Tour de France on mineral water’; French president de Gaulle brushed aside questions about doping, noting the national significance of Anquetil's achievements, and that he got the Marseillaise played in other countries. Anquetil's private life included fathering children by his stepdaughter, and by the wife of his stepson. Retiring in 1969, he farmed and worked as a newspaper correspondent, radio broadcaster, and race director. His continuing work was illustrative of both his achievement and popularity, and the less invasive nature of mediated celebrity, particularly in a French context in which the public and the private were seen as separate dimensions of an individual's life.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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