Stan Ockers & Jacques Anquetil - August 1955 Le Miroir des Sports

Le Miroir des Sports August 1955 Stan Ockers 01 main image

Stan Ockers, Belgian, 1920 - 1956

Jacques Anquetil, French, 1934 - 1987

This image is from Le Miroir des Sports, August 1955, and shows, a very young, Jacques Anquetil leading Fausto Coppi (half hidden) and Stan Ockers (in the middle of the frame) at the World Road Race Championships (which Ockers won).

Stan Ockers was a Belgian sprinter with a strange and tragic career.

Born in 1920, he turned professional in 1941, but didn't win his first major race (La Flèche Wallonne) until 1953, at the tender age of 33. Then in 1955, aged 35, he was even stronger, winning La Flèche Wallonne (again), Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the Tour de France Green Jersey and the World Road Race Championship. In 1956 he was at it again, taking a second Green Jersey.

On September 29th 1956 Stan Ockers was involved in a, seemingly ordinary, crash during a track race in Antwerp. Two days later he was dead, a result of head injuries suffered during the crash. Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Antwerp as his funeral cortège passed through the city.

In terms of derailleurs, Stan Ockers won his World Road Race Championship riding a Simplex Juy 543 derailleur.

Jacques Anquetil, the most elegant rouleur of all time, defined the suave, enigmatic, rarely-loved-often-admired, specialist-time-triallist, stage race winner - a type of cyclist which has gone on to win the Tour de France so very many times in the modern era. Jacques, himself, won in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964, all without a single strand of well gelled hair ever slipping out of place.

Some fascinating nuggets of information about Jacques Anquetil include:

  • He was unashamed of doping - maintaining that all professional cyclists used performance enhancing drugs because you simply could not be the hero the public expected without them. I have a memory of reading somewhere that he considered that, in health terms, taking drugs was a much, much, safer way of ‘building stamina’ that putting in endless training hours on the fiendishly dangerous roads of 1960s France - and in this he is almost certainly correct.
  • He was an unlikely admirer of the British cycling scene (then an amateurish irrelevance in world terms), because of its penchant for his beloved time trialling.
  • He pursued and married the wife of his team doctor, and then, because the couple could not have children, he fathered a child with both his wife’s 18 year old daughter by her previous marriage and his wife’s daughter-in-law. In that 1970s French way, all parties appear to have been aware of what was going on, and, because it was all consensual, were not particularly concerned about it.
  • According to Wikipedia, amongst all the powerful and glamorous people he mingled with, he was most particularly pleased to meet Yuri Gagarin.

In derailleur terms he rode Simplex from 1953 to 1962 - in this photo he appears to be using a Simplex Juy 51. He then defected to Campagnolo for 1963 and 1964. Notably, he used the brand new, high-tech, all plastic Simplex Prestige (532) throughout the 1962 Tour. I could not comment on whether this had anything to do with his decision to move to Campagnolo for the following year.

This is one of two pictures of Stan Ockers on this site (the other is here), and also one of two pictures of Jacques Anquetil (the other is here).

Le Miroir des Sports August 1955 Stan Ockers 01 main image
Le Miroir des Sports August 1955 Stan Ockers 01 additional image 02
Le Miroir des Sports August 1955 Stan Ockers 01 additional image 01