French cycling’s eternal runner-up Raymond Poulidor dies at 83

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French cyclist Raymond Poulidor, who gained the adoration of the French public as an eternal runner-up in the Tour de France, has died at the age of 83.

Poulidor had been hospitalised since early October as the result of a heart condition. “He left us this morning,” his wife Gisele told AFP from their home in western France.

Poulidor’s career is distinguished by a number of famous rivalries with now-iconic riders. In 1963 and 1964, he was vanquished at the Tour de France by Jacques Anquetil; these defeats were followed by a lengthy rivalry with Eddy Merckx. 

In all, 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 Merckx. “The more unlucky I was, the more the public liked me,” he told l’Equipe in 2004.

Poulidor’s underdog status, however, belies what for most other riders would be a glittering palmares. Along with a Grand Tour win at the 1964 Vuelta a España and a Milan-San Remo victory in 1961, Poulidor achieved a number of podium places at World Championships and monuments, along with numerous other victories.

In his retirement, Poulidor remained a fixture of French cycling and stayed close to the sport. He was an enduring figure at the Tour de France in particular, where he worked for Credit Lyonnais as a promotional ambassador.

His recent ties to the sport run deeper even than that. Raymond and Gisele Poulidor’s daughter, Corinne, married Adri van der Poel, a six-time classics winner and two-time Tour de France stage winner. Their son, Mathieu van der Poel – Raymond Poulidor’s grandson – is one of the most exciting prospects in the sport, and is a multiple-time world champion in cyclocross; Poulidor often attended his races to support him.

CyclingTips extends its heartfelt condolences to Raymond Poulidor’s family and friends.

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