Bizarre family revelation of French hero's 'mission'
From The Sunday Times
May 03, 2004
HE was a sporting god to the French, one of the greatest cycling champions in history. Yet, only now is the truth about Jacques Anquetil being told.
Unable to have a child with his wife, he had one with her daughter from a previous marriage, and lived with them for 15 years before the arrangement collapsed in unhappiness and betrayal.
The extraordinary details are revealed in a book by Sophie Anquetil, the 32-year-old daughter of the racing champion.
His accomplishments included winning the Tour de France five times during the 1950s and 60s.
Jeanine, Anquetil's wife, was Sophie's grandmother; Annie, her mother, was also her stepsister. They lived happily under the same roof, says Sophie, without anyone outside the immediate family ever suspecting the truth.
"I was a little girl with two mothers," she writes.
"One of my mothers was the daughter of the other and my two mothers were at the same time the double wife of my bigamous father."
Not only that. After Anquetil was abandoned by his wife and the mother of his child, he then invited his stepson's wife, Dominique (who bore him a son, Christophe), to become the mistress of his Normandy chateau. The disclosures have shocked a nation that thought it knew everything about Anquetil, the son of a strawberry farmer who won his first big race at the age of 19 in 1953. He was to stay at the top of the sport for the next 17 years accompanied by Jeanine, his glamorous wife, from whom he appeared to be inseparable.
They had met when she was married to his doctor and he showered gifts on her two children, Annie and Alain, who adored him. Soon Jeanine, who had been born into a notable Normandy family, also fell under his charm and in 1957 he ended up in her bed.
"In the morning I knew I would love Jacques totally until my death," Jeanine said.
They began an affair until, tired of deceit, Jeanine eventually was able to divorce her husband, the doctor, in 1958, when she and Anquetil married.
Jeanine went everywhere with her husband, effectively becoming his manager, nurse and chauffeur.
The racing champion seemingly was unstoppable, although with his mournful appearance and robotic performances, he was never the favourite of the public, who identified more with Raymond Poulidor, his rival.
When Anquetil retired to his chateau near Rouen in 1969 at the age of 36, he wanted a child but Jeanine, after two difficult births, had been sterilised. "I must find a surrogate mother," he told Jeanine, "even a whore whom I will pay for nine months and do a deal with, but I must have a child of my own blood."
Interviewed by Sophie in her book, Jeanine explains how "the crazy idea" of asking Annie, her daughter, to have a child with her husband came to seem like a perfect solution.
Annie, who was 18, acknowledges that she fell in love with Anquetil. "That's how I found myself in bed with him on a sacred mission of procreation," she says in the book. Even after she became pregnant and produced Sophie, she continued sleeping with Anquetil. Yet he would wake up each morning with the understanding Jeanine, or Nanou, as the family called her.
The bed-hopping went on for 15 years. Anquetil had begun sleeping with Dominique, who had Christophe, shortly before Anquetil died of stomach cancer in 1987. The other women in his life have been reunited in Corsica where Sophie, married with a young son, runs a restaurant, and Jeanine and Annie reminisce about the old days.