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Raymond Poulidor dies aged 83

The “Eternal Second” cyclist was one of France's most loved athletes in the 60s and 70s

Photo credit: Courtesy VeloPress

French cycling legend Raymond Poulidor, known as the “Eternal Second” for never winning the Tour de France despite being the main rival of both Jacques Anqueti and Eddy Merckx, died at age 83 early Wednesday morning. Poulidor, known affectionately as “Poupou”, had been hospitalized for the past two months in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat. “He left us this morning,” his wife Gisele told AFP.

Known as calm, even-tempered man, Poulidor was approachable and unpretentious. During his 25 year career he competed in 14 Tours de France from 1964 to 1976 finishing in third place five times and second place three times. He never once wore the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification, losing first to Jacques Anquetil and then Eddy Merckx. So frequent were his near-wins, that his name affectionately became synonymous with second place “I’m practically a common noun” he said “There’s a Poulidor in politics, a Poulidor in Bocce. There’s a Poulidor in anything as long as it has a second place.” His status as an “Eternal Second” made Poulidor an underdog and a fan favorite. Academics were puzzled as they attempted to understand why the more he lost, the more the public rooted for him.

Despite never successfully becoming leader of the general classification in the Tour, Poulidor still managed to secure 7 stage victories. He was also the French national champion in 1961, the same year he won Milan-San Remo. Other victories include Flèche Wallonne in 1963, the Vuelta a España in 1964, and Paris-Nice in 1972 and 1973.

Poulidor worked with the Tour after his retirement, and wrote several biographies detailing his lifelong love for cycling. His cycling legacy is still upheld by his family. His son-in-law, Adri van der Poel, is a former world cyclocross champion. His grandson, Mathieu van der Poel, also a world cyclocross champion, is currently making a name for himself in cyclocross, mountain biking and road racing.

Messages mourning the loss of “Poupou” have been posted throughout social media. “Alway so proud 💔💫” posted his grandson Mathieu along with a picture of the two hugging.


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Toujours si fier 💔💫

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Heureux d’avoir croisé ton chemin. Au revoir Raymond, au revoir Champion ⭐ 📷@sigfrid_eggers

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