BORDEAUX (AFP) – Raymond Poulidor, icon of French cycling, died aged 83, Wednesday.
Poulidor had been hospitalised since early October and “he left us this morning,” his wife Gisele told AFP from their home in western France.
His astonishing career spanned 25 years but he will always be remembered for the races he failed to win. From 1964 to 1976 Poulidor finished second in the Tour de France on three occasions and was third five times in an era dominated by Eddy Merckx. His status as eternal runner-up gained him huge affection in France.
So famous was his repeated failure to clinch the Tour that the phrase “to do a Poulidor” passed into the French language, synonymous with coming an unlucky second. Despite his Tour de France disappointments, Poulidor is forever ranked among France’s cycling greats and at the same time is seen as a humble hard worker loved by the people who earned every one of his many triumphs.
His long-time rival Merckx told AFP “a great friend has left us”.
“I am very sad. During my career we were rivals but afterwards we often spent time together. We holidayed together. It’s a big loss.”
Among current riders, Romain Bardet, second in the Tour de France in 2016 and third the following year, said: “He was an emblematic character, adored by the public.”
“He was the link between cycling and its origins among the people. I remember seeing him on the Tour de France but also at the local village races with the organizers. He represented the real face of cycling, a popular and accessible sport.”
Poulidor was born in a small village in western France in 1936, just a few miles from where he died. He clinched 189 wins during his career from 1960-1977. High points included wins in the Vuelta a Espana, the Dauphine Libere twice, and the Paris-Nice twice.
For the remaining four decades of his life, he retained his links with cycling through public relations and as a consultant. His name is known to many newer cycling fans as a result of his grandson, Mathieu van der Poel.