The list of his victories and records it’s only a hint to follow his achievements. Five Tours, he was the first cyclist to do so and the first rider to win four successive times. He twice won the Giro d’Italia, preceded only by Coppi. A Vuelta, and a first place also among the champions of The Triple Crown of Cycling, the six riders able to win all three grand tours in a career. And then a Liegi-Bastogne-Liegi, a Gent-Wevelgem and all he could win in the individual time trial. He won first place nine times at the GP des Nations, the first one when he was 19 years old and the last one 13 years later. Seven victories at the GP of Lugano, three at The Trofeo Baracchi and The GP Castrocaro, and two in the hour record: the first was validated, while the second wasn’t, because in his sincerity he didn’t accept disagreements, neither from doping control officers. When Anquetil put his wheels on the Vigorelli tracks, even the mechanics used to stop and watch him astonished: Alberto Masi, son of the manufacturer who created the bicycles for Anquetil, still remembers him with the same fascinated expression.
It is said that during an individual time trial Anquetil could pedal with a cup of champagne on his back without losing a drop. But this isn’t totally true, because he would probably reach out his arm and drink it as he used to do, even if he was racing. Champagne, smoking, nights spent playing poker have been his companions for life. Without them, Anquetil would never had become Anquetil. Probably he would have won, he always does, just like Eddy Merckx, another imperfect giant, but he wouldn’t become a legend. Cyril Guimard defines Anquetil an inventor: “with him, a new kind of style appeared, a new manner of being”. The keyword was “charisma”. No matter if he was talking or pedalling, whenever Anquetil came on the scene the world would stop to look and listen to him. A magnetic character. Supporters, engineers, journalists, women and rivals, everyone was waiting for him, and he returned this feeling.
At the Giro di Sardegna in ’67, Jacques insulted those who were far ahead: “Aren’t you ashamed to reach that poor soul who was far ahead all day?”. Nevertheless, the solitary Aldo Pifferi was reached, but at the last climbing slope the Norman champion pushed him, with one last rush of solidarity, before he surrendered to fatigue. The day before one of the GP of Lugano the organizers offered him money in order to lose once again: Anquetil negotiated and took the money, the winner would have been Ercole Baldini. Obviously, on the finishing line the order was inverted, Anquetil raised the stakes and no one said a thing, neither Baldini. How could someone challenge this talent?