Back in the day I wasn’t much of a fan of Jacques Anquetil, mainly because he was the only rider who could beat my hero Ercole Baldini against the watch. That and the fact that he won the Tour five times in a manner that made Big Mig seem exiting. I havebeen reading Vin Denson’s book and Vin is a big fan of Jacques if only because his time with Ford France labouring for the Norman was the one time that he had a decent job as a pro.
So I checked out my back issues of Sporting Cyclist and read about the 1961 Tour de France. Anquetil took the jersey on the first day in a time trial and held it for three weeks, God it was boring! In 1961 the Tour was contested by national teams and there was a British Isles team with Robinson, Simpson and Shay Elliott backed up by a motley crew including Denson, Stan Brittain and Ken Laidlaw. On paper it didn’t look half bad as that season Simmy had won De Ronde and Robbo had won the Dauphine Libere but within a few days Simpson had packed with a dodgy knee and the team was reduced to an Englishman Robinson, an Irishman Elliott and a Scotsman Laidlaw.
But back to the first day and that time trial over just 28km. Robinson, who don’t forget had just won a major stage race and was looking for a high finish at Paris took 43min 38 sec. Denson, a good English tester had a time of 45min 55sec and Simpson was slower in 46min 32sec. And Anquetil? He took just 39min 43sec. and crushed second placed Bouvet, a world class pursuiter, by two and a half minutes and the rest beaten out of sight! So by the end of the first day the Tour de France was over.
I took the photo at the 1966 Worlds on the Nurburgring. Anquetil was second to Rudi Altig. The GB rider is Alan Ramsbottom.