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Cycling History: Anquetil's Paris-Nice Double

[Editors' Note: IrishPeloton has been producing some of the sport's most impressive and engaging historical posts for the Velocast series This Week in Cycling History. He's also been a regular here at the Cafe for some time, and many of us have been reading his stuff for years. Now, IrishPeloton is bringing some of those great moments in history straight to the pages of the Podium Cafe. -Chris]

Collection of Patrick Verhoest

1966 – Jacques Anquetil became the first rider to win two consecutive editions of Paris-Nice

Although the Frenchman had won Paris-Nice four times already, he had never successfully defended his title. In 1966, victory in this famous French stage race would be all the sweeter for Anquetil as he beat his old foe Raymond Poulidor into second place.

However, it was not straightforward for Anquetil. On Stage 6, a time trial in the afternoon of a split day’s racing from Casta to L'île Rousse, Poulidor, for once, actually beat Anquetil in a time trial.

Poulidor put a second per kilometre into Anquetil over the 36km course. This 36 seconds also amounted to Poulidor’s overall lead over his fierce rival, with just three stages remaining. Anquetil reflected afterward about the thought of losing to Poulidor:

One lone defeat would count as much as fifteen or twenty victories. Was that fair? I could already picture the crocodile tears being shed because of my supposed decline.

Anquetil_2_mediumThe final three days consisted of rolling or flat road stages, but Anquetil knew that if he was to reel in Poulidor, he would need to manipulate the race and play to his strengths – time trialling. Although he had already been defeated in the discipline that week, he would add the element of surprise in order to take his fifth and final Paris-Nice title.

So on the penultimate stage, Anquetil placed time trial sized gears on his bike in anticipation of an attack on the descent of the final mountain. Anquetil rode the last 35km alone and put 1’25" into the bunch which included the hapless Poulidor who would have to settle for second place once more.

But there was controversy after the race as Poulidor and his Mercier team accused the Ford team of Anquetil of blocking tactics in the peloton. The claim was that the Ford team were physically pulling back the Mercier riders as they attempted to orchestrate the chase of Maitres Jacques.

But after a thorough investigation the complaints were ignored and the result stood. Poulidor said afterward in disgust at the outcome, that "Anquetil is the real boss of cycling... his team mates did not behave well on the road to Nice and he would acknowledge as much if he is honest with himself".

Anquetil, never one known for dishing out sympathy responded:

Poulidor is a cry baby. The interview in which he repeated the accusations made by his team to cast a doubt over the correctness and sincerity of my victory, that interview is not worthy of a champion and I will find it difficult to forgive him.

With this victory, Anquetil was keen to stave off accusations of his impending decline. But at age 32, 1966 was to be his last great year. He went on to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege the following month (his only monument classic win) and he ended the year with his ninth victory at the Grand Prix des Nations. He also came the closest he ever came to winning the rainbow jersey finishing second in the world road race to Rudi Altig at the Nurburgring.

Anquetil rode on until 1969 scoring some further victories in minor stage races, but his era had come to an end just as another rather famous era was about to begin...

Hear IrishPeloton -- a/k/a Cillian Kelly -- along with host John Galloway at This Week in Cycling History. Photos from the Collection of Patrick Verhoest.