Mathieu van der Poel wins the yellow jersey of “grandfather Poulidor”


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Louse louse will finally have his yellow jersey.

Raymond Poulidor, nicknamed “Pou-Pou” by adoring French fans who applauded his indomitable spirit, has finished on the Tour de France podium eight times, but never won it.

And perhaps even more surprisingly, despite his seven stage victories, Poulidor has never worn the precious yellow tunic in the 14 Tours he started during his rich career.

Read also : Poulidor, the last of the heroes in black and white

Flash-forward to Sunday on the Mur de Bretagne and the Poulidor will wear the yellow jersey, at least in the spirit, and by extension in the DNA.

His grandson, Mathieu van der Poel, made sure of this.

Van der Poel pointed at the sky and broke down in tears after pulling the whole peloton off his wheel on Sunday. He was running as much for his own glory as for Poulidor, who died in November 2019 at the age of 83.

“It’s for you, grandfather“said van der Poel, referring to his grandfather.” It’s pretty amazing. “

Cycling is literally in van der Poel’s DNA. Poulidor is van der Poel’s grandfather from his mother, who married ex-Dutch pro Adrie van der Poel.

Racing is a family affair within the close-knit van der Poel family. After his retirement, Poulidor proudly saw his grandsons, Mathieu and David, grow up running to carry on the family tradition.

After missing the victory on Saturday, Van der Poel was only able to finish 20th in stage 1 against an unstoppable Julian Alaphilippe. Determined to win because he knew it was his last chance to take the yellow, van der Poel led to the attack on the first pass of the Mûr de Bretagne.

Why? Ten bonus seconds awaited at the top.

“It was my last chance to get it,” van der Poel said of yellow. “I went to the bonuses for the first time and I knew I had to win the stage. Not only to win the stage, but I had to have a little gap.

Van der Poel attacked a second time, passing the Ineos Grenadiers, and passed Alaphilippe enough to win the stage and claim yellow.

His gift was complete.

Julian Alaphilippe congratulates Matthieu van der Poel on his victory in stage 3 of the Tour de France 2021. Photo: Daniel Cole – Pool / Getty Images

“I can dream of a scenario like this, but for it to have worked, to realize it is even more incredible,” said van der Poel.

Poulidor has never seen his grandson race in the Tour de France. Van der Poel finally made his Tour debut this year, around 18 months after Poulidor’s death.

“I wish my grandfather was here today,” van der Poel said in tears. “It would have been nice to take a picture together, him in a Credit Lyonnais jersey, and me in a yellow jersey.”

Van der Poel knew that Sunday presented his best and last chance for yellow. Monday and Tuesday favor the sprinters, then Wednesday the individual time trial.

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Now that he’s in yellow, van der Poel just wants to enjoy the moment.

“I can imagine I can keep it until the TT,” he said. “I hope to be able to arrive in Paris. The green jersey is not a goal because it would take too much effort. I want to be able to leave the Tour and go straight to Tokyo and try to win on the mountain bike.

Poulidor has raced against the greats, from Jacques Anquetil to Eddy Merckx, and his career has been marked by endless calls and near misses with two of the five-time Tour winners.

A poster of Raymond Poulidor at the Tour de France.
A poster of Raymond Poulidor at the Tour de France. Photo: Michael Steele / Getty Images

As the son of farmers, Poulidor’s early career rivalry with Jacques Anquetil represented the struggle between rural and urban as France entered the post-war years.

After his retirement, Poulidor became present on the Tour de France caravan every summer as a VIP guest of the sponsor of the yellow jerseys, Crédit Lyonnais. Every morning in the starting village, Poulidor patiently posed for photos and signed autographs for generations of cycling fans, young and old.

Van der Poel couldn’t control his emotion, just as he couldn’t restrain his will to win.

“I was overcome with emotion when they told me 100% that I had the yellow jersey,” he said. “It’s a special year for me to be here in the yellow jersey for my first Tour de France. I can only imagine if he was there to share it with me.


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