06/25/2021 at 8:27 PM CEST
Mathieu always called his grandfather ‘Papy’. Raymond Poulidor did not miss a cyclo-cross world championship and saw his grandson wear three of the four times he won the specialty rainbow jersey. 45 years ago Pou-Pou played his last Tour. Three times it was second and five times thirdBut never, defeated by Jacques Anquetil, first, and by Eddy Merckx, later, did he wear the yellow sweater for a single day.
Today all France looks at a young Dutchman named Mathieu Van der Poel, 26, who makes his Tour debut in the name of his grandfather. And not a single Frenchman will care today if a supposed enemy of the cycling homeland defeats Julian Alaphippe, if that is the case, on the 5.3 percent 3-kilometer slope that leads to the first goal of the race.
Because if Van der Poel wins it will be a tribute to Poulidor, the myth who only wore yellow after retiring, following the Tour with Credit Lyonnais (LCL), the eternal sponsor of the yellow jersey. Pou-Pou walked around the Tour until four months before his death.
When he returned home he felt very tired, increasingly lazy, tremendously exhausted. And he passed away on November 13, 2019. «I come to the Tour to finish it and so I can dress in yellow and dedicate it to Papy. Van der Poel gets emotional when talking about his grandfather.
His father, Adrie van der Poel, retired in 2000, winner of the Tour of Flanders, like him, of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and numerous triumphs, also stages of the Tour, he fell in love with Corinne, daughter of Pou-Pou. At the time, the dominant language of cycling was French, so there were no communication problems in the couple who settled in Holland where Poulidor’s two grandchildren were born.
Mathieu and his team, the Alpecin, they wanted to pay tribute to Poulidor on Thursday at the team presentation event that took place in Brest. And they all showed up dressed in the purple and yellow colors of Mercier, the team where Pou-Pou ran his entire sports career.
With things like this the French Tour fan gets excited. That is why they consider Van der Poel one of their own. And because he is now one of the great stars of this sport, winner this year of the Strade Bianche, two stages of the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Switzerland.
The same cyclist who at the end of the Tour will go to Japan to race in the Games, but not in the road mode, but on a mountain bike. In 2019 he was European champion of the specialty. The best all-rounder in current cycling.