Eternal Poulidor

"Of course I would have liked to win a Tour, but if I had done it, I don't know if they would keep talking about me." Raymond Poulidor, the prototype of the second classified, the most popular Poupou , the character that has given name to the repeated defeat in any aspect of life – despite being a cyclist of enormous successes, 189 victories between 1960 and 1977 – died yesterday in his Limousine land at 83 years. The world of cycling, sport and France as a whole mourn the loss of a character of immense popularity that until 2019 followed the Tour, which was now going as ambassador of the main sponsor, Crédit Lyonnais. Every morning, at the exit stage, Poulidor – always accompanied by his esteemed Gisèle, his wife since 1961 – took a seat at the bank stand, dressed in a yellow polo shirt (the color he never achieved in the fourteen editions consecutive Tour that disputed) and signed autographs, one after another. He kept a little talk with his followers, “you know, monsieur Poulidor, my father adored him "," I can never forget when I saw him go through my town "," this autograph is the illusion of my childhood … "and Poulidor smiled, always smiled, listened carefully, talked, searched in his memory , shook hands, distributed hugs and signed the small postcards that the sponsor made available, one, ten, one hundred. “The Tour is my life, the day I can't follow it I will die,” he explained. In the last edition he had a bad time. Death stalked him, every day he ended up fainted, he suffered every night, but he wanted to get to the end. On his way home his light began to slowly go out. Until yesterday.

"The Tour has enriched me immensely and I mean the intellectual level," he said. But there are also his sports deeds. His battles with Jacques Anquetil are legendary, his shoulder-to-shoulder photography going up to the Puy de Dôme is one of the indelible icons in the history of cycling, his bloodied face when he was shot down by a motorcycle, his yellow jerseys lost for a handful of seconds have Past history. And above all, his misfortune on the Tour, eight times on the podium without ever winning it. Being a Poulidor has passed into the common language to define the one that usually comes second, which is seen beaten again and again in all areas of life. He was very aware of this legacy: “There is no day that they won't talk to me about a Poulidor , everywhere, in politics, in basketball, in any sport, ”he commented.

In 14 editions, 8 podiums

"Of course I would have liked to win a Tour, but I don't know if they would keep talking about me," he said

Such was his confrontation with Anquetil that the two characters, antagonistic about the bicycle, one calculator the other all splurged, came to hate each other. Until they met more thoroughly once retired from the competition and Poulidor even accompanied his former rival (died in 1987) in the last months of life. It was when Jacques, sick with death, had a lapidary phrase with Raymond: “You see, mon ami , here you will also arrive second ”.

The next Tour already planned a tribute with a stage that will pass right in front of the house of Poulidor, who also survives with the growing successes of his grandson, the Dutch Mathieu van der Poel. The figure of Poulidor transcends cycling, although everything started on the bicycle, as he confessed: “What would have happened to me without cycling? I've been lucky! ”

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