The greatest runner-up of all-time died 11 days ago at the age of 83. His name was Raymond Poulidor, he finished second three times and third five times in the Tour de France and the French loved him as much as any sportsman has ever been loved in that country.
Poulidor’s first podium finish was a third place in 1962 at the age of 26, his last a third place 14 years later after he’d turned 40. Winners in the intervening period include names like Lucien Aimar, Jan Janssen and Luis Ocana, who only the most fervent cycling anoraks remember today.
But things were different when it came to Poulidor. “No other rider,” wrote L’Equipe, “has ever incited so many sociological investigations, so many university theses, seeking to find the cause of his prodigious popularity.
“The more unlucky I was, the more money I earned and the more the public liked me,” the rider himself recalled.
His great nemesis was Jacques Anquetil, who won a record four in-a-row between 1961 and 1964. Their battle in the last of those years may be the most famous of all Tour contests. On the final mountain stage the duo fought shoulder to shoulder on the climb to the top of Puy de Dôme, bumping against each other…