By Barry Boyce,


Top 20 All Time Major Classics #9

SPECIAL NOTE: the now defunct Bordeaux-Paris classic (last run in 1988) is not one of cycling's 5 monuments, but it was one the most prestigious races of its time. This episode of the Classic needs to be honored for the grandeur of the accomplishment.

Bordeaux-Paris 1965: AN IMPOSSIBLE DOUBLE

CR Timeline 1965

Dauphiné Libéré: May 22 to 29, 1965
1st: Jacques Anquetil 42h04'36”
2nd: Raymond Poulidor +1'43"
3rd: Karl-Heinz Kunde +5'58"
4th: Lucien Aimar +8'53"
5th: Roger Pingeon +10'22"

Bordeaux - Paris: May 30, 1965
1st: Jacques Anquetil 15h03'03"
2nd: Jean Stablinski +57"
3rd: Tom Simpson, same time
4th: François Mahé +7'34"
5th: Jean Claude Lefèbvre 9'47"

At the start of the 1965 season Jacques Anquetil was a super star in the world of professional cycling. There were not many achievements left for Anquetil. He had already won five Tour de France championships, accomplished the prestigious Tour-Giro double in 1964, and he had the most Grand Tour victories (8), surpassing Fausto Coppi's 7 victories. But he continued to suffer a negative perception in the minds and hearts of the French cycling fans. In contrast his arch rival "eternal second" Raymond Poulidor enjoyed the fan popularity that had eluded Anquetil.

In the spring of 1965 Raphael Geminiani, Anquetil's Director Sportif, proposed an extraordinary and very unique feat. The task was to win the Dauphine Libere (May 22 to 29, 1965) and less than 24 hours later (on the opposite side of France) attempt to win the classic Bordeaux-Paris. Media speculation began immediately, the skeptics said Anquetil would ride the Dauphine for training and ride Bordeaux-Paris for show, another suggested he would abandon both, but only his closest friends believed “he will win both!”

In February when Geminiani first presented the idea, the immediate response from Anquetil himself was, “You're insane!” Only after considerable persuasion and a promise that if he failed Geminiani would assume the responsibility for the ridiculous idea. Anquetil eventually did agree to attempt the incredible, Impossible Double .

The first hurdle was to win in the Dauphine. Raymond Poulidor had just raced the Vuelta a Espana (in 1965 the Vuelta was held in the spring) and had great fitness after finishing second to German Rolf Wolfshohl. Anquetil started the Dauphine strong with a stage win and the race lead on stage 3 (of 8 stages) with Poulidor close in second place. By the finish in Avignon Anquetil had two more stage wins and gained a 1'43” General Classification victory over Poulidor. From the moment of victory in the Dauphne Libere a horrific process began:

15:00 Dauphine victory for Anquetil

16:58 Officials finalize the last stage of the Dauphine

17:00 Anquetil completed the award ceremony

17:55 He rushed to a shower

18:20 He got into a Ford Taurus for transfer to the airport in Nimes

18:30 Arriving at the airport, he climbed into an airplane made available by the French Government

18:56 The airplane took off for Bordeaux

19:35 The airplane landed in Bordeaux, quickly he is transferred to a hotel for a brief rest and a Pre-race meal

02:00 (AM!) He is at the start line for the grueling (567km) Bordeaux-Paris

The Bordeaux-Paris road race was a great classic. It traveled 567 km from Bordeaux to Paris with some sections of the race paced by a derny (a small motorbike). To Anquetil's loathing the early kilometers of the race were rainy and run in difficult conditions. By 4 o'clock in the morning a fatigued Anquetil was on the verge of abandoning the race with stomach cramps. He climbed off the bike and into the team car when Geminiani used extreme powers of persuasion to convince him to continue. “OK... If you want to be a quitter?” said Geminiani. Anquetil jumped out of the car and onto the bike.

Francois Mahe had a lead of 6 minutes until Anquetil, Tom Simpson and Ford-Gitane teammate Jean Stablinski worked together to close the gap. After catching and dropping Mahe the breakaway became 2 riders, Anquetil and Englishman Tom Simpson. Twenty kilometers from the finish (547 km into the race) an inspired Matre Jacques upped the pace that Simpson could not follow. Anquetil entered the Parc des Princes velodrome alone to a thunderous ovation!

With these two victories in this "Impossible Double" Jacques Anquetil instantly became the sensation of France and received the greatest ovation of his career.

Dauphiné Libéré May 22-29, 1965
554 Km

1. Jacques Anquetil 42h04'36”

2. Raymond Poulidor +1'43"

3. Karl-Heinz Kunde +5'58"

Starters: 100
Finishers: 65
Bordeaux-Paris May 30, 1965
567 Km

1. Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 15h03'03"

2. Jean Stablinski (Fra) +57"

3. Tom Simpson (GBr) +57"

Starters: 11
Finishers: 10
Average Speed: 37.007 km/h


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