Tour de France: Raymond Poulidor, a tribute to the timeless champion

He’s not here anymore. Absent his helmet of silvery hair, his benevolent smile, his little phrases about the race that were collected in spades, his poses for the photo with his many admirers. Raymond Poulidor is missing from the Tour de France.

For the first time since 1962, the year of his first participation as a runner, he who after the end of his career in 1977 made a point of being part of the furniture until the end, this 2019 edition, a few months before his death November 13, at age 83.

→ CHRONICLE. Raymond Poulidor, the man of the Tour de France

Raymond Poulidor is no longer there so the Tour recalls his fond memories by passing in front of his home this Thursday, September 10, kilometer 114 of the twelfth stage, in the heart of Haute-Vienne at Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat.

The small city of his childhood, and his home port of always, 4,800 inhabitants today, a good part of whom jostled at his funeral last year for a final emotional tribute to their “Poupou”. Poulidor the popular, a love rating that resists the wear and tear of time, for both retirees and champions, a singular phenomenon.

A love rating that resists time

He himself, the kind Raymond, could not believe these endlessly renewed displays of affection. What is the persistence of this affair? Nostalgia for the good old days? The national attraction for magnificent losers, always less suspect than “winners” of all stripes?

“What is fascinating with Poulidor is this timeless side, comments the former journalist of The team Philippe Bouvet, who has just published Our Poulidor years, more than yet another biography of the man, a dive into an era. The love of ” Poupou ” lasts, is transmitted from one generation to the next, and is perpetuated by kids who did not know him as a runner but maintain his notoriety. “

The embodiment of rurality

Poulidor is in fact the solid guy from the Limousin countryside, the son of a peasant who knows what to work means, arrived on the Tour quite late, at 26, but immediately on the podium (third) and for long time.

It is very quickly made the embodiment of rurality, of tradition against the modern Jacques Anquetil. A classic opposition overplayed by the gazettes, and a role in which Raymond slips without barguigner, always composing with fate, even the opposite. Poulidor became “Poupou” in the 1960s, an attendant on the Grande Boucle in the places of honor, even managing to never don the yellow jersey. In fourteen participations until 1976, it had to be done!

→ DOCUMENT. Funeral of Raymond Poulidor, this champion “remained humble and simple”

Antoine Blondin evokes “The champion of postponing until tomorrow”, often overwhelmed by bad luck but applying to relativize, the sympathetic second, it is necessary to have one. “We feel sorry for him, maybe more than him, writes Philippe Bouvet. His repeated bullshit echoes what little people have the impression of going through every day. Somehow, it doesn’t just happen to us and it reassures us. “ Is it there to look for it, the news of Poulidor, the champion of what was then called ” Deep France “ and which returns today in the speeches on ” the territories “ ?

“A cycling of man-to-man fights”

“I had thought of revolving around this idea of ​​a Poulidor who had never worn the yellow tunic but could wear the yellow vest, laughs Philippe Bouvet. But Poulidor was not a rebel, which some moreover reproached him for. On the other hand, it did represent the common sense that we attribute today to the famous “territories”. There is something Poulidor in Prime Minister Jean Castex, and perhaps that is why he was chosen: because we know that he will be able to be content with being a second. “

→ THE FACTS. Tour de France winners: the winners of the Grande Boucle

The permanence of the myth is not only sociological or dependent on a comeback of the 1950s and 1960s which has been added to the blockage for some time in the 1980s. The sporting dimension is obviously important, Poulidor personifying the obstinate runner and catchy, generous solitary putting the book on the job until its 40 years.

“An age that spoke much more then than today, notes Philippe Bouvet. Before, at 40, we were old. But Poulidor, it was the cycling of man-to-man fights, with Anquetil, then Merckx, duels that got lost, in favor of more complex racing strategies that made the public less vibrate. “

Who to take over, within the current peloton? Thibaut Pinot could carry the suitcase of bad luck, Romain Bardet take the wheel of broken promises. “Julian Alaphilippe perhaps induces feelings which are similar to those aroused by Poulidor”, suggests Philippe Bouvet. But what good, since everyone agrees: “Poupou”, there is only one, and forever.


The magnificent fake loser

He was not winning, Raymond Poulidor? Certainly, on the Tour de France, victory has always escaped him, he who rather than eternal second (in 1964, 1965 and 1974) was often third (in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1972 and 1976). But on his record, we still find great successes, and not the least.

The Tour of Spain in 1964, Milan-San Remo in 1961, La Flèche wallonne in 1963, Paris-Nice twice (1972 and 1973) as well as the Critérium du Dauphiné (1966 and 1969). The criteriums were, moreover, his main field of expression. He skimmed them, and there are 117 successful wins.


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