Le Tour bids farewell to Poulidor…
November 13 th 2019 - 10:09
The silhouette of Raymond Poulidor, familiar to anyone who has followed the Tour de France since 1962 without interruption, has faded away and will be deeply missed next summer. The former rider from the Limousin region, who passed away at the age of 83 years old, left a major mark on cycling in the 20th century, having ridden alongside Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
Several weeks ago at the Palais des Congrès convention centre in Paris, all eyes were on the map of Le Tour 2020, but everybody’s thoughts were chiefly with Raymond Poulidor due to the health concerns he was experiencing. Similarly, everybody could remember the quips about the Yellow Jersey he made last year on that same stage, declaring whilst stood next to Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain: “Between the four of us, we won the Tour de France 15 times!”. Naturally, the special relationship he maintained with the Yellow Jersey, a garment to which he was so close without ever having worn it, since his first participation in 1962 (and a 3rd-placed finish) until last year in his role as an ambassador of the event, made an impression and left its mark on the statistics. He is the record holder for podium finishes on Le Tour (with eight, out of fourteen editions) but never led the general classification, not even for a half-stage… you really could not make it up! However, beyond his sporting skills, it was his temperament on the bike and everywhere else that won over hearts and built the relationship that he enjoyed with the public. Even at the peak of the rivalry between supporters of Anquetil and Poulidor, the popularity of the rider from Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat did very much to offset the misfortune that often only just held him back on the road. For example, in Scheveningen at the beginning of Le Tour in 1973, he missed out by eighty hundredths of a second to Joop Zoetemelk for the edition’s first Yellow Jersey. Also, on the way to Albi in 1968, he was knocked over by a motorbike and forced to exit the race with the title virtually in his grasp. “Poupou” had to battle with strokes of bad luck in addition to taking on out-of-the-ordinary competitors such as Jacques Anquetil and then Eddy Merckx. In spite of everything, Poulidor’s story was also one of many fine victories: among his 187 triumphs, the French Champion in 1961 was victorious on stage races such as Paris-Nice (1972-73), the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (1966-69) or the Tour of Spain (1964), but also on classics like Milan-San Remo (1961) or the Flèche Wallonne (1963).
The Tour de France organisational teams would like to join with several generations of cycling enthusiasts in expressing their sorrow but also their support in these difficult times to the friends and family of Raymond Poulidor.