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The 1965 Crazy Bet
In 1965, the Bordeaux-Paris race witnessed an extraordinary feat of cycling endurance by enigmatic cycling legend Jacques Anquetil. Stung by what he perceived to be the greater popularity of his arch-rival, Raymond Poulidor, Anquetil responded to a challenge from Raphael Geminiani, Directeur Sportif of Anquetil’s St Raphael team, to prove beyond all doubt that he was the superior athlete. At 3pm, on 29th May, Anquetil won the Dauphiné Libéré, a week-long stage race ending in the southern French city of Nîmes. Less than four hours later, having completed several rounds of interviews and the post-race reception, the often controversial Frenchman boarded a plane for a 40-minute flight to Bordeaux. At 1am the following morning, Anquetil lined up for the start of the Bordeaux-Paris, which would end later that morning in the French capital.
Supported by his team mate, Jean Stablinski, and goaded by insults from Geminiani – and very possibly other performance enhancers about which the Norman was famously indiscrete – Anquetil raced through the night. Battling exhaustion and stomach cramps so severe he could only take on fluid, he eventually claimed victory and an unprecedented double. It was a feat of endurance almost unimaginable these days where the pro rider’s lot has been made somewhat more “comfortable” through the action of riders strikes and representations from professional riders associations. Even the split stages of old have deemed too onerous on riders and have been consigned to history. To full understand Anquetil’s achievement, here are some numbers to consider:
–Over 2000km covered to win the Dauphine and Bordeaux-Paris
–35 hours without sleep
–18,000 calories burned during the final stage of the Dauphine and Bordeaux – Paris equivalent to over 8kg of Steak Tartare that Anquetil liked to consume before racing
Anquetil’s achievement inspired Simon Mottram and a group of friends to attempt something almost as audacious – read more here »
Watch a short documentary of Anquetil’s crazy bet:
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