With his lined, wind-burned face and slow Limousin drawl, he reminded his followers of the old ways, la France profonde and all kinds of comforting verities that had been pushed aside by modern life. He kept a peasant's innocence, and in 1966 got into deep merde with his colleagues for agreeing to a newfangled drugs test which they were all refusing. But he also kept a shrewd business head on his shoulders. He knew the value of a franc, ever since he and his brothers had broken their bedroom window and been told, by their father, that there would be no money to mend it until the spring.
It was therefore oddly satisfying that his great rival, Jacques Anquetil, was everything he was not: a well-off, pale-faced, blond-quiffed, almost ghostly Norman, withdrawn and unflamboyant. Anquetil won the Tour five times, yet to his fury the French still loved Poupou more. The depth of their duelling was witnessed by half a million spectators when, in 1964, they battled up the Puy de Dôme in Auvergne side by side, Anquetil on the mountain side and Poupou on the precipice edge, so close that their elbows knocked and Poupou could feel the hot breath of “Maître Jacques” on his arms.
He gained 42 seconds over him; it was not enough to win the Tour. But he did not mind too much, as he never did. One reason to be relaxed was that he was making a lot of money—more even than Anquetil, some said. From the start he had been astonished at what cyclists earned. His first prize, 80,000 old francs for coming second, would have taken him six years to get by farming (or substantially less time at the poker table, where he was a skilled bluffer).