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Poulidor, the & # 39; eternal number two & # 39; of the Tour de France, dies at the age of 83

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Raymond Poulidor, the & # 39; eternal number two & # 39 ;, whose repeated failure to win the Tour de France helped him capture French hearts and become the country's favorite cyclist, has died. He was 83.

Tens of years after his career ended, Poulidor was still worshiped in a country where sports fans love to draw & # 39; wonderful losers & # 39 ;. The fact that he never wore the yellow jersey – and never fully recovered from his rivals Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx – became his trademark.

Outside of the cycling circles, his status overshadowed the performances of Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, the two French members of the elite club of five times Tour winners.

"His performance, his panache, his courage will forever be etched in our memories," said French president Emmanuel Macron. "Poupou, forever the yellow jersey in French hearts," he said with the nickname of Poulidor.

During his 17-year career, Poulidor achieved a record eight podium places during the Tour de France, the flagship of cycling, but could never reach Paris in the famous yellow tunic worn by the race leader after each stage.

“The cycling world is losing a monument, an icon. You can't imagine how much Poupou was loved in France, & said Merckx, another five-time Tour winner.

Poulidor died according to city officials early Wednesday in his hometown of Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, in central France.

He was hospitalized last month after a period of fatigue this summer during the Tour, where he worked every year as an ambassador for the sponsor of the yellow jersey. Ironically, since he was never allowed to wear it during his racing career, he wore a yellow shirt every day for this activity during the grueling race.

The son of sharecroppers, Poulidor participated in 14 Tours from 1962-76. He finished in third place three times and finished third in five.

Raymond Poulidor shows the battle scars of a fall in the descent of the Portet d & Aspet pass in the 13th stage of the Tour de France in 1973.

(- / AFP via Getty Images)

A sweet and down-to-earth competitor, he kept the same warmth and approachable way after his career, always in for a chat with his admirers and ready to sign autographs or pose for photos.

Fans loved the brilliant Poupou throughout the country. Two years ago he shared a warm greeting with Macron after a stage of the 104th edition of the race.

"He was a man of the people and never forgot where he came from," said tour director Christian Prudhomme. "He spoke to people in the same way, regardless of whether they were the French president or roadside fans."

Poulidor became a professional in 1960 and achieved great success with the French Mercier team before retiring in 1977, a year after he became third in his last Tour de France behind Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk at the age of 40.

His career came during a time of greatness in cycling and secured him between two exceptionally strong riders in Anquetil and Merckx.

Although he failed during the Tour, Poulidor was more than just a second violin. He was an all-rounder with great climbing skills and achieved prestigious victories in the classics Milan-San Remo and Walloon Arrow, the Spanish Vuelta – his only Grand Tour victory – and the Paris-Nice stage race.

In 1962 he made his Tour debut with a broken finger and gave a great show in the Alps to win a daunting stage with five climbs with an impressive three-minute lead.

Two years later, Poulidor started the 1964 Tour as a favorite, because he had won the Vuelta earlier that year. After dropping Anquetil during a Pyrenean stage, he reached the top of the climb of Port d & # 39; Envalira with a three-minute lead over his cycling. But Anquetil rode very fast downhill to overtake his rival before Poulidor hit the asphalt in the fog and eventually lost two minutes.

During the 1968 Tour he was involved in a serious crash after a motorcycle fell over him and fell on him.

"When I was hit by the engine, I was almost dead on the side of the road," Poulidor said years later.

Despite all the bad luck, Poulidor was not bitter.

"I was unlucky, but the bike brought me more than it cost me," he once said, summarizing his career.

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