Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape
The 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)
It would be very easy today for me to get angry with the well respected journo in yesterday’s Times who ( in a précis to Olympic BMX) was less than complimentary and frankly patronising. So, as it’s very easy, I think I’ll do it. Now as close as sod it is to swearing the word pundit boils down to “he who should know best”. So in as much he rubbished a sport he knows absolutely zero about by calling it absurd and how the bicycles cannot be taken seriously… (average build on a club level machine roughly £1200 and more or less double that of a more than decent track bike) could be a good time for him to keep his trap shut.
Levels of fitness and precision cycle handling and tactics that many other top sportsmen would wince at. Why do you think Jess Varnish will lead out Vicky Pendleton this year? Simple. I love those two girls, but something written in the oracle says Vicky has to be the one to ride the final lap. Sadly, Vicky can’t live with Shanaze Read’s attack pace. If she could, we’d have a ladies team sprint record that wouldn’t be touched for a generation.. “so why doesn’t Vicky Pendleton lead out for Shanaze?”. Erm yes ok.
He further declared that although the sport was crazy and the bikes a joke, that it will all change at The Olympics where we shall see what the sport is all about. Erm..no actually Mr Barnes The Olympic games presents our sport in a weak light in my view. Hey don’t get me wrong I’d like to see the Medals come our way. Yet I agree with him. BMX ought not to be an Olympic sport. In my mind it becomes devalued by The Olympics. The Olympic competition is in no way a true representation of what Bicycle Moto Cross is about. Ok, you will see the elite of our sport in action, but consider this. The roughly two dozen riders that will sign on at Stratford are at the top of an elite group that is some several THOUSAND strong. The elite Road race entry is probably about 400 riders short of the total number of elite riders that that branch of the sport can muster worldwide. And you know from the last blog that road and velodrome are where my personal riding pleasures lie.
“so stop yer moaning John” well, no I’m in a whinge mood. 2 days processing the same number of riders that the organisers of a midweek club night at say Perry Barr or Bulwell, would be ashamed if they could not process comfortably in an hour….including recovery time, when 1200 on Sunday will go through the most exciting well organised machine very probably in any sport you can name!
So Mr Barnes. Do you want to challenge your poncy patronising words and make your way to Manchester this weekend? Roughly 1200 riders competing in all ages from 6 to 46. Many of our sport’s elite will be on show riding approximately £250,00 worth of laughable bikes. You’ll receive a copy of my little moan Mr Barnes. I’ll be middle of track on Sunday, iPad in hand couple of cameras about my neck. I’ll man up and defend my sport.. Will you have the balls to check us out and tell your readers that you owe us an apology? I somehow doubt it. You scrawl tripe for a Murdoch comic.. when did they last accurately report anything?
Thursday moan done. Can’t wait for the weekend. He won’t come. Far too many of us, plus our sport can speak for itself. So what’s this all been about then Jon? Leave me alone I’ve had gut ache all day.