France’s most well liked bike owner of all time, Raymond Poulidor eclipsed in “poupoularité” even the ones five-time Excursion-winning titans Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault. Synonymous with completing moment, Poulidor nonetheless notched masses of wins all over his occupation despite the fact that by no means donned the well-known yellow jersey. Felix Lowe reacts to the unhappy passing of a French legend, who died this week elderly 83.

Video – ‘Poulidor the unfortunate? No, I had numerous success’ – a perfect in his personal phrases


Poulidor’s competition with Anquetil

Born in 1936 right into a farming circle of relatives in central France, Poulidor was once steadily portrayed as a paysan – a bumpkin peasant with, within the phrases of Fotheringham, “apple cheeks that [made] it glance as though he was once completely smiling”. He indubitably rode fairly agriculturally – in stark distinction to the metronomic precision, sophistication and civility of his large rival, the urbane Jacques Anquetil.

When Anquetil gained the 1962 Excursion – his 3rd victory – he did so after blitzing a last time trial all over which Poulidor’s supervisor instructed him: “Pull over, Raymond, there is a aircraft coming through…”

Poulidor ended up at the 3rd step in his debut Excursion over 10 mins down on Anquetil, vowing to come back again more potent. In that sense, completing 8th a yr later, 16 mins down on Anquetil, made what came about the next yr the entire extra astonishing.

Dubbed “the Excursion that break up France,” the 1964 race noticed Poulidor the plucky challenger push the four-time champion Anquetil proper to the very finish – maximum significantly at the Puy-de-Dôme climb within the Massif Central the place, within the phrases of French historian Michel Winock, “the 2 adversaries seem to be connected to each other like two thistles”.

Excursion director Jacques Goddet – following on one of the vital a lot of motorbikes clogging up the slim ascent – was once much more flowery, describing how “their breath, their sweat and the wool from their jerseys intermingles” all over the duo’s shoulder-to-shoulder tussle at the extinct volcano.

At the rivet, Anquetil hung on till in any case cracking, dropping 42 seconds within the ultimate 600m as his compatriot lower his result in a narrow 14 seconds. Anquetil later remarked: “If I had misplaced the jersey I might have given up.”

Two days later, Anquetil dug deep to take 21 seconds on his rival at the ultimate time trial to Paris, the overall hole emerging to 55 seconds after time bonuses. The five-time winner was once beneficiant in his reward of the person who driven him the entire approach and who, some argue, was once yet a pot-hole puncture within the Pyrenees shy of profitable the Excursion.

I gave 100 p.c. I’ve infrequently used such drive. I needed to transcend my very own limits so as to beat Raymond Poulidor, so I will have to pay tribute to him. I’m proud to have crushed this kind of very nice champion, within the toughest Excursion I’ve ever identified.

For his phase, regardless of the disgruntlement, Poulidor was once gracious in defeat, becoming a member of Anquetil for the lap of honour within the Parc de Princes velodrome and vowing: “I do know that I will be able to win the Excursion.”

It was once the type of steely optimism that will spur Poupou on for an extra 11 makes an attempt.

A yr on, Poulidor – true to the nickname he didn’t but have – completed moment at the back of Felice Gimondi in Anquetil’s absence. When the competition resumed in 1966, Anquetil famously described Poulidor as a “cry-baby” after his response to being attacked following a crash.

He desires to discover ways to keep upright on his motorbike. I do not see why I must look forward to him when he can not. After I truly do assault, he may not see me.

This was once mere bluster from Anquetil, who misplaced the degree 14 time trial to Poulidor and would hand over the race simply days from Paris after realising he could not win a 6th Excursion. However no longer sooner than doing his absolute best to make sure victory went to his Ford teammate Lucien Aimar and no longer his outdated foe from Mercier.

Certainly, Anquetil looked as if it would take practically as a lot excitement in profitable the Excursion as making sure his more youthful rival did not – as captured through his remark in 1966 that, “If through some likelihood I do not win the Excursion he may not win it both.”

It was once this facet of Anquetil (deliciously likened through the author Antoine Blondin as a diner who hurries out of a cafe with out leaving a tip) and his medical, chilly, calculated approach of using that driven many French fanatics against Poulidor, who they so steadily noticed because the “ethical victor”.

Fodder for the Cannibal

It is a part of the Poulidor tragedy that he was once not able to capitalise within the small hole between the eras of Anquetil and Merckx to stamp his personal authority at the Excursion. However it’s also an indication of his persona that Poulidor put his ambitions apart in 1967 to lend a hand information his compatriot Roger Pingeon to glory when the Excursion was once raced through nationwide groups. A yr later, he retired injured as Jan Janssens gained.

Neither Poulidor nor Pingeon may do the rest when the fresh-faced Merckx pulverised the sphere in his debut Excursion in 1969, each Frenchmen settling for far-off puts at the podium.

Such was once Merckx’s domination {that a} new shaggy dog story began to do the rounds: Raymond Poulidor was once fined fifty francs for taking a tow from a lorry up the Tourmalet. However what about Eddy Merckx? He was once towing the lorry…

It is true, the early Merckx years had been merciless to the aging Poulidor. He completed 7th in 1970, overlooked the Excursion a yr later, then got here a forged yet unspectacular 3rd in 1972. The yr when Merckx concentrated as an alternative on a Giro-Vuelta double, Poulidor got here painfully on the subject of that prologue yellow sooner than practically dropping his lifestyles at the descent from the Col de Portet d’Aspet when he plunged right into a ravine.

Poulidor’s rebirth got here in 1974 together with his first Excursion degree win in 8 years, the 38-year-old losing Merckx and everybody else at the climb to Saint-Lary. A decade after his epic duel with Anquetil, Poulidor was once taking part in a moment early life, securing this 3rd runner-up spot in Paris as Merckx made it 5.

Finish of the street

Poulidor’s moment wind was once knocked out of his sails all over a rotten 1975 through which his most effective victory got here within the Excursion of Limousin. However there was once nonetheless time to bop again sooner than being put out to graze.

The Frenchman’s unfortunate 13th Excursion was once his worst, Poulidor slipping to 19th as compatriot Bernard Thévenet drew the curtain on Merckx’s reign of terror. There remained, alternatively, a last bankruptcy to jot down in his Excursion tale.

Whilst he by no means threatened Lucien van Impe for the yellow jersey, Poulidor gained a fierce combat for the overall position at the podium at the back of teammate Zoetemelk, making sure that, now in his 5th decade, his ultimate Excursion would finish with the similar outcome as his first, 14 years in the past.

He wound up his occupation in 1977. His ultimate main race was once the sector championships in San Cristobal, Colombia. Elderly 41 and feeling the pinch, Poulidor completed second-last of the finishers. Closing position that day? Eddy Merckx. So, Poupou in any case were given the simpler of the Cannibal in any case. 3 weeks later, each riders known as time on their careers after Paris-Excursions.

It is possibly no marvel {that a} rider who rode such a lot of Excursions could not avoid the sector’s largest motorbike race every July – and for the most efficient a part of 4 a long time, Poulidor, proper up until this July simply handed, was once a part of the furnishings within the Excursion’s exposure caravane, the place he smiled at fanatics and dished out trinkets, all the time dressed within the yellow that all the time eluded him.

With Poulidor passing, that can now trade. The journalist Daniel Friebe, a veteran of a dozen Excursions, mentioned this week it was once “a large, unsightly marvel” to these mainstays within the press for whom the cheery Poulidor all the time had time for a chinwag. ITV and the Biking Podcast’s Friebe, who described the departed Frenchman this week as “a stoic outdated oak constructed of harder fibre than the remainder of us”, added:

Poulidor was once a type of guys who, whilst you met him, comforted no matter preconceptions you had about cyclists (particularly in his generation) being a unique, bodily awesome breed. Massive fingers. Immaculate hairline. Pores and skin so shiny and glossy it’s essential to comb your personal quiff in it.

And despite the fact that his final degree win at the Excursion got here 45 years in the past, Poulidor was once all the time revered and respected through the present stars of nowadays, together with Julian Alaphilippe, whose exciting almost-but-not-quite bid to win the Excursion this July noticed him take a spot in French hearts as soon as reserved for Poupou.

These days, Poulidor’s legacy stretches past the area of biking. Completing moment in different sports activities in France is steadily known as “doing a Poulidor” whilst thwarted French politicians were described as parliamentary Poulidors. Actually, because the blogger Internal Ring states, the country’s perceived tendency to just accept being worthy losers fairly than medical winners is referred to as “Poulidor syndrome”. Is fairly, it would simply as neatly be coined Pinot syndrome.

Speaking of politicians, the French President led the tributes that flooded Twitter on Thursday, claiming “his exploits, panache and braveness will stay engraved in historical past”. Poupou might by no means have gained the Excursion, yet, mentioned Emmanuel Macron, he’s going to be “without end the yellow jersey within the hearts of the French”.

Raymond Poulidor and Emmanuel Macron in 2017.

Raymond Poulidor and Emmanuel Macron in 2017.Getty Photographs

In spite of everything, past the panache of Alaphilippe and the glory-infused agony of Pinot, a bit little bit of Poupou nonetheless lives on within the professional peloton. His daughter Corinne married a a success Dutch professional from the past due 80s and 90s through the identify of Adri van der Poel. That they had two sons, either one of whom took up biking – first in cyclo-cross after which at the highway.

You will have heard of one in every of them – a chap known as Mathieu van der Poel. There is not anything remotely ceaselessly moment about him. He is but to trip the Excursion yet it will take a courageous guy to guess in opposition to Poupou’s grandson dressed in at some point the yellow jersey that eluded his grandfather.

Elegance obviously runs within the circle of relatives. Relaxation in peace, Raymond Poulidor (1936-2019).

Raymond Poulidor at the 2014 Tour de France

Raymond Poulidor on the 2014 Excursion de FranceGetty Photographs

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