Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape - Jacques Anquetil's Biography

I recently read the biography of Jacques Anquetil, five times winner of the Tour de France amongst other great titles and I thought I’d pop a quick review up here.
I found it weird reading this book how such a successful man could come across so unpopular even when written so many years on from his glory days. He seemed to win his races with such machine like performances that the French never warmed to him and in fact they warmed more to the guy who constantly finished second to Anquetil, Poulidor.

The book covers Anquetil’s life from start to finish (he died in 1987) and, as the title suggests, he had just as interesting life off the bike as he did on it. In fact you are given a sneak preview of his personal life in the introduction and it makes for interesting reading.  He married his Doctors wife and then had a daughter with his wife’s daughter from her previous marriage. He then carried on relations with both for many years. Eventually the mother of his child moved out and he then married his wife’s daughter in law. If you’re still with me, well done.

It may all sound incestuous but in the eyes of the law I don’t think anything was illegal as it wasn’t in his direct blood line. The author, Paul Howard, does well to put this all across without sounding judgemental at any time. He also manages to keep his personal life separate from his cycling story and he should be applauded for this as such a story could distract from what was a very successful and unique cycling career.

Having read the book I am glad to know the story of Jacques but it never seems to come to life and you never feel like you’re in Anquetil’s head. At times the book can drag on and the author explains why there are certain gaps in his information. It must be hard writing a biography after the subject has died but you never feel caught up in his successes, perhaps this is how the French felt when following him and in that sense Howard has done well transporting me from Bristol to the crowds of France but I felt like I was the one stood at the back who couldn't see everything.

I think if you’re a fan of the Tour de France or cycling in general then I think this may interest you. However if you’re new to the sport or haven’t read many other cycling books then there are better on the shelf. I would give this book three out of five.

You can buy the book from Amazon.