CONTENTS Publishers’ Note Foreword by Phil Liggett Author’s Introduction Part One - The Prince Part Two - The

Young King Part Three - The Old King Part Four - Abdication A Chapter of Quotations Postscript Bibliography Appendix: Jacques Anquetil’s Palmares


As the fans looked forward to a new season it was evident that some things were going to be different. The Helyett team was now cosponsored by the Italian drinks company Fynsec, but André Darrigade would not be riding for them: he had put on the light-blue AlcyonLeroux jersey. His friendship with Jacques had cooled considerably since the two men got married and Anquetil’s new ‘right-hand man’ was Jean Stablinski. Jean was, by now, recognised as one of the most astute riders in the game and fully understood Jacques’ need to be motivated. Indeed, he was to some extent his adviser and, in the years to come, many people came to regard them as more like brothers. Antonin Magne was making a lot of noise about his new team leader, a certain Raymond Poulidor. The journalists were a little sceptical as Raymond was, by now, in his twenty-fifth year, and had yet to win anything of any great importance. However, the reason for his comparatively late start with the pros was that his military service had been delayed, so 1961 was only his second season in the paid ranks. Jacques was now 27, the age at which riders were normally expected to reach maturity, so perhaps it was for this reason that he planned to ride a long, hard season of races. He was determined to establish himself beyond all possible doubt as the number-one rider in France and, after studying the route of the forthcoming Tour de France, he decided that it would suit him; he was determined to bring off something spectacular. The cycling world was somewhat scandalised when Van Looy admitted to the Belgian press that he had helped his Belgian rival, Emile Daems, to an overall win in the Tour of Sardinia in return for a couple of stage victories. He explained to the journalists in Brussels that, if he could not win himself, he preferred to see victory going to another Belgian. Anquetil responded to this by claiming that Van Looy


had ridden specifically against him in the past two Tours of Italy, but that he had sought his help in the Tour of Lombardy against one of his (Jacques’) own team mates, Graczyk. He had refused, of course, and went on to say that if Rik continued to act in this way then people would start talking about a ‘blue train’* on the road. Certainly Van Looy’s conduct in Sardinia brought no credit on him and upset many in the peloton. Winning the Paris–Nice proved that Jacques had come to form early in 1961, but would he be able to hold it for the whole season? French hearts were filled with joy when Raymond Poulidor won the Milan–San Remo. Antonin Magne had not been joking when he said he had somebody special on his hands. Then it was back to Paris, to the former motor-racing circuit of Montlhéry, where the National Criterium was being held. The course took in the banked track as well as the twisty, flat circuit alongside it. Just like the Brooklands circuit, south of London, Montlhéry had seen its heyday before the war. Unlike Brooklands, however, the Parisian track had been kept in good condition as it was used on a regular basis for record attempts. The race was fast and furious, and Anquetil, as one journalist remarked, rode ‘a la Bobet’. In other words, he spent the whole race in the front quarter of the field. With three laps to go a front group of fifteen had established itself and Jacques managed to join them after closing the gap by himself. Paul Wiegant, his Directeur Sportif, drew alongside in his car and urged Anquetil to attack. Jacques shook his head and said, ‘You must be joking. Not in this wind.’ Jean Graczyk also urged him to try to get clear. ‘No, Jean,’ he said. ‘You go and if they bring you back, then I’ll try it.’ The words were hardly out of his mouth when there was a loud ‘pffit’ as Graczyk’s back tyre went down. Jean Stablinski then had a try at persuading him. ‘Go to the front, Jacques. Ride to win. If you decide to go clear, you can drop any peloton. Just try and you’ll see that I’m right.’
*The so-called ‘blue train’ was reputed to be a system in the Six-Day races on the track whereby the top riders shared the main spoils amongst themselves, thereby making it difficult for any new riders to establish themselves.


Jacques had total confidence in Stablinski’s judgement. On the last lap he said to his team mate, ‘Is this the time?’ ‘Yes,’ said Jean. ‘In the name of God, go now!’ With just 1,500 metres to the finish Anquetil went clear for what virtually amounted to a long sprint. On the line he was two lengths clear of Darrigade. This was really a red-letter day: after nearly eight years Anquetil had won his first single-day road race, excluding criteriums. Antonin Magne had announced at the very beginning of the season that 1961 was going to be Anquetil’s year and to many it was beginmng to look as if he was right.

Tour de France 1959 (with Ercole Baldini)