There has never been and there will no longer be an athlete in world cycling able to achieve the fame and intensity of popular love that Raymond Poulidor – for all Poupou – has reached in France in recent decades. And his death – which occurred at 83 years, Tuesday night after a brief illness in Saint-Lonard-de-Noblat, in the New Aquitaine region – has declared the national mourning to be imperial.
From Poulidor to Cuper, from football to the Ottey: the eternal seconds of sport
In the golden age of cycling – the Sixties, the beginning of the Seventies – Poupou was first the anti-Anquetil and then the anti-Merckx. On the one hand, two natural phenomena that on bicycles have won everything that could be won, on the other he, peasant origins, tricolor to the bone that he tried in every way to fight them for almost twenty years. Anquetil and Merckx won, he struggled with despair on every goal to the end of his strength (the last podium of the Tour reached him at 40) and he regularly lost. Always, even when it was thought to have success (repairman) in hand: a virus, a fall, an error in the path, the historical feat of an adversary as happened in Gimondi at the 1965 Tour. Or – worse – as in 1968 when in Tour practically already won, this superfine climber was knocked down by a motorcycle in Albi, in the 15th stage: nose fracture, mandatory withdrawal. His resume is clear, to no one the definition of "eternal second" fits better: eight times on the podium of the Tour de France (three times second, five third), six on the World Cup, in career Poulidor had to settle for a Tour of Spain, a Milan-Sanremo, a Freccia Vallone and a few other races. But his fame, his myth were consolidating and continued to do so even after his retirement from things, which occurred in 1977. With his big face and big nose at Asterix, with total willingness to participate (free) in parties, banquets, baptisms in every corner of the country, with 43 Tour de France as testimonial of the Grande Boucle, he standing on the podium in yellow blouse and white hair. Always kind and available to everyone. Never did Poupou complain about a defeat or a misfortune happened to him on the road. During a stage of the last Tour, the reporters of Le Monde told of having made an appointment at a service station with a fan of his that the parents had called Raymond like him: He had been writing to me for decades. We met for a coffee, he was very kind. When I found out that the last name was Second (Secondo, ed) I embraced it. Poupou's genes are not dispersed. His beloved nephew Mathieu Van Der Poel, 24 years old born in Belgium, but of French nationality, in fact a total phenomenon of two wheels.
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