Mathieu van der Poel's dream comes true as he takes Tour de France yellow jersey, but wishes PouPou was here for a photo

The Dutchman was overcome with emotion after swiping bonus seconds and pulling off 'dream scenario' to take the race lead

Mathieu van der Poel
(Image credit: Getty)

"I hope that everything will soon be over so I can see the people from the team and thank them."

Mathieu van der Poel has been the guardian of the yellow jersey for only about half an hour and is already tiring of the pomp that comes with being the leader of the Tour de France. He wants to get back to the things that really matter.

He pointed to the sky as he crossed the line first to take his debut Tour stage win, honouring his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, who passed away without seeing his grandson participate in the race that made The Eternal Second so loved.

It was only after the bonus seconds and gaps across the line had been totted up and communicated to Van der Poel that he broke down emotionally. Physically, he was already on the floor after an explosive effort that saw him finish eight seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe, the world champion and first yellow jersey of this Tour coming over to the pile of Dutch rubble surrounded by cameras to congratulate him. Last year, the Frenchman's stage win and yellow jersey on stage two was dedicated to his late father.

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Van der Poel knew today was his "last chance" to get his hands on yellow this Tour, two flat stages following today before the stage five time trial that should see the GC men come to the fore.

"I knew it was opportunistic to get [those eight seconds over the first ascent] and then to win the stage and get a small gap..." Van der Poel trailed off during the press conference after the stage.

"I'm quite speechless that it worked out, you can dream of a scenario like this but to have it happen is unbelievable."

The 26-year-old's legs weren't at their formidable best on the opening day, but he reckons a hectic stage one had tired the rest of the field a little, and the harder ascent of the Mûr-de-Bretagne meant positioning was easier, plus his legs had recovered after that first-day wobble.

Although his grandfather never once claimed yellow, his father Adrie has one, but it's barely a feature at the Van der Poel household.

"I've seen the jersey once or twice maybe, it’s not hanging up in the house or something, it’s somewhere upstairs in a box, it’s not like I saw it every day," a fate that will not be suffered by this new one. "No, I think I will give it a nice place and hang it somewhere.

"I imagined if my grandfather was here and we could have taken a photo," Van der Poel said, barely holding onto the microphone as he stared down at the table, trying to come to terms with the latest, and greatest, in an already long line of achievements. "It would have been quite the photo. It’s hard that he’s not here."

He expects he'll lose the yellow jersey on the stage five time trial, and tomorrow will be a day for coming to terms with what the achievement means to him. For now, like how yesterday when Alaphilippe celebrated the birth of his son, this opening weekend of the 2021 Tour is all about family.

"I hope that will come tomorrow but for now it’s hard to imagine and it has to sink in a little bit," the new yellow jersey finished.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.