The Bretons are very lucky. One day, they swoon over Julian Alaphilippe, the most popular French cyclist of the moment. Another, they rave about Mathieu van der Poel, the grandson of the most popular French cyclist of all time, Raymond Poulidor.
→ CONTEXT. Tour de France 2021: first success on the Grande Boucle and yellow jersey for Mathieu van der Poel
The first two to wear the yellow jersey have everything to please the public in Brittany or elsewhere: their legs are full of panache, the taste for adventure and their success tell great family stories.
A finger raised to the sky in memory of Raymond Poulidor, his grandpa
The French won by extracting himself in force from the Fosse-aux-Loups, in Landerneau (Finistère), with a thumb in his mouth, a nod to his little Nino just born from his union with Marion Rousse, champion bike and television commentator on maternity leave. The Dutchman succeeded him at the top of the coast of Mûr-de-Bretagne (Côtes-d’Armor), a finger raised to the sky in memory of this grandpa that we all call “Poupou”, as if he were one of us.
→ REPORT. Tour de France 2021: by the side of the road, the return of the world before
Son of Corinne Poulidor and Adrie van der Poel, a Dutch professional rider also yellow jersey in 1984, Mathieu van der Poel grew up in Belgium, near Antwerp, where his parents settled. He was closer to his famous grandfather than the distance between Limousin and Flanders might suggest. Overwhelmed by emotion, the young man had let his mother read a letter sent beyond death to the deceased during the funeral celebrated in the church of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat (Haute-Vienne), in November 2019.
These weren’t the words of a champion, they were the phrases of a grandson: “Hi grandpa. Hope you are well up there. I already miss you. It hurts me to know that you’ll never be around to see me run again. I always looked forward to seeing you during the winter. I have a few favorite circuits during the cyclocross season but now the circuits that I didn’t like became my favorite circuits when I saw you cheering me on at the finish line. You, always so proud to be my grandfather. But me, even more proud to be your grandson. You are my greatest champion. I love you. We love you. “
Mathieu van der Poel discovers the Tour de France at 26
This year, Mathieu van der Poel discovered the Tour de France at exactly the same age as his grandfather, at 26 years old. During the presentation of the participants in this 108e edition, in Brest, he and his teammates from the Belgian Alpecin-Fenix team were adorned with a special outfit, in yellow and mauve, the emblematic colors of Raymond Poulidor’s Mercier team. The International Cycling Union then authorized them to wear this tribute tunic on an exceptional basis during the first stage, the one won on Saturday June 26 by Julian Alaphilippe.
The next day, Mathieu van der Poel had returned to his “normal” overalls to ride between Perros-Guirrec and Mûr-de-Bretagne with one obsession in mind: to take the yellow jersey, this Grail that “the eternal second” does. ‘never managed to reach in fourteen participations in the Tour, between 1962 and 1976. He knew it, this arrival on the hill was for him the last opportunity to endorse it, before the massive sprints, the time trial and the passes which will push him back into the depths of the general classification.
Quadruple world champion in cyclo-cross and candidate for a medal in mountain biking at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the all-terrain rider also knows how to be offensive on the roads. He has already won two major classics, the Tour of Flanders and the Amstel Gold Race. In Côtes-d’Armor, he maneuvered perfectly. A first attack to pocket 8 seconds of bonus, a second to fly to victory by widening the gap on Julian Alaphilippe.
“I imagine how proud he would be”
The French did not hold it against him: “Mathieu was simply stronger. We get away from it all but we like each other because we ride a bike in the same way. He deserves it, he’s a very handsome wearer of the yellow jersey. “
→ FILE. Tour de France 2021: all the information to follow this 108th edition
Meanwhile, Mathieu van der Poel was crying hot tears, his face in his hands. In a press conference, inevitably, it was quickly question of Raymond Poulidor: “I imagine how proud he would be, it’s a shame he’s not here but there’s nothing we can do about it. “
→ The results of the day: The complete classification of the 3e stage of the Tour de France 2021
→ The general classification: Find the general classification of the Tour de France 2021