Sex, Lies and Handlebar TapeThe remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
by Paul Howard
The Times ‘An extraordinary biography’
The Times certainly hit the nail on the head with that one! This is certainly a very extraordinary biography. I would perhaps have re-titled the book, Sex and Drugs and ride a bike, rephrasing one of my favourite songs written by the amazing wordsmith Ian Dury. Paul Howard’s biography is certainly full of all three!
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape unlike many of the other cycling biographies and autobiographies I have read is not an easy read. This is not due to the content of the book but rather in the style in which it is written. It is clear that Paul Howard has spent time carefully researching the facts in the book. He has done this by reading other author’s books and by talking to people around Anquetil at the time. However to ensure the reader is aware of the depth of research the book can at times be as enjoyable to read as a history text book, not totally riveting!
I found the early chapters really hard going and was not sure if I could persevere, but the desire to get under the skin of such a great cyclist drove me forward. Paul Howard deals well with all areas of Anquetil’s life, from his calculating riding style, which did not win over all the French public, to his unusual personal life and loves.
Through the book you certainly get an impression that, actually what happens today is not really that different to Anquetil’s era but somehow it has become more accepted that deals are struck for teams to work together, rider support is bought, and that it is OK to ride to a carefully calculated marginal time gain plan. Lance Armstrong and other greats certainly did this. The darkside however is perhaps the accepted use of drugs to aid performance and Anquetil’s stand against testing and his refusal to be tested after his final hour record, leading to the lack of ratification for the record. Funny to think that Paul Kimmage has become a cycling world outcast for writing about the same thing, when in reality it was all ready in the open.
The hardest part of the book to ‘get your head round’ is that fact that his wife allowed, maybe even suggested, they use Anquetils’ stepdaughter to act as a surrogate mother. This lead to a twelve year relationship, with mother and daughter. Finally imploding and leading to Anquetil developing a long term relationship with his stepson’s wife! I wonder what Jeremy Kyle would have made of that?!
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape is most certainly an extraordinary biography and if you are willing to work at reading it, overall it is well worth the effort. You get a chance to get the inside story of one of cycling’s greatest ever Tour de France riders. Persevere, overall it was forth the effort.
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape – The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
Author: Paul Howard
Published by Mainstream Publishing
Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook
RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)