By Gregor Brown
Raymond Poulidor, "iconic and loved by the public" for his fight and string of Tour de France near-misses, died early this morning in western France, at the age of 83.
The Frenchman, known as 'The Eternal Second' for his run in the Tour de France, is best remembered for a race he did not win during the course of his 18-year career on the road.
Poulidor climbed to second overall in his home tour three times behind cycling royalty: Jacques Anquetil in 1964, Felice Gimondi in 1965 and Eddy Merckx in 1974. He also finished third overall five times in a career that spanned 1960 to 1977 and that largely coincided with the domination of Anquetil and Merckx.
"People sometimes say 'The Eternal Second', but don't forget that he also won Milan-San Remo, the Vuelta a España, the Flèche Wallonne and other major races," Eddy Merckx told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
"The cycling world loses a monument, an icon. You can't imagine how much loved 'Poupou' was in France. Every year, I saw that again with the Tour de France. France loved his charm. I have rarely come across such a charming person."
Poulidor suffered from heart issues and had been unwell since summer, when he worked as a VIP at the Tour de France. He was hospitalised in early October, suffering from fatigue. His wife confirmed his death sometime around 2am on Wednesday morning (November 13) in the Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, Haute-Vienne.
French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute, saying Poulidor will be "forever the Yellow Jersey in the hearts of the French."
"He's a really iconic character, loved by the public," said Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), the last Frenchman to climb on the Tour's podium, second in 2016 and third in 2017.
UCI president David Lappartient said:"It is with deep sadness to hear that cycling legend Raymond Poulidor has passed away.
"On behalf of the UCI, I extend my sincere sympathy to Raymond's family and friends."
Cycling author Chris Sidwells said: "He had the style of an unmade bed, and his through processes sometimes exasperated team-mates, but Raymond Poulidor was loved by fans, smiled in victory in or defeat, and was very, very strong."
Commentator Ant McCrossan said: "Am sad to hear of the passing of Raymond Poulidor.
"Was lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions. A great champion and lovely man. My thoughts are with his family."
Poulidor was born on April 15, 1936, in Masbaraud-Mérignat (Creuse), two years after five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil. Though he collected eight podiums and no wins in the Tour de France, he cut out his own slice of the cake. He won seven stages of the Tour, a Grand Tour overall in the 1964 Vuelta a España, Paris-Nice twice, the 1961 Milan-San Remo and the 1963 Flèche Wallonne.
It was impossible to forget Poulidor, who each summer sat in yellow in the LCL tent in the VIP village at the Tour de France, happily greeting fans from around the world.
Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) continues to win for his maternal grandfather. He just claimed another European cyclocross title and this summer made an impressive debut on the road with the Amstel Gold Race and other wins. Van der Poel said on Instagram, "also so proud of you," while his brother David said: "My hero and my biggest supporter."
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