Raymond Poulidor and Mercier’s stories are closely intertwined. Scouted by Antonin Magne, the cyclist went on to spend his entire professional career as part of the Mercier team. Raymond signifies, above all, a loyalty to the Mercier purple vest.
Over the course of his 40 year career, Poulidor gathered a long list of awards: Milan-San Remo (1961), Flèche wallonne (1963), Paris-Nice (1972-1973), Critérium du Dauphiné (1966 and 1969). To this long list of victories must also be added 14 participations in the Tour de France.
And yet, Raymond, the cyclist with 181 victories, has gone down in history as the eternal silver medalist. Extremely popular, he was the darling of the spectators on the roads of the Tour de France, ahead of Anquetil and other Mercier team members. Yet Poulidor never won the Tour de France or wore the yellow jersey.
And the story might have ended there.
Raymond Poulidor died in 2019 and he remains one of the most-loved cyclists, even more so after his retirement, when each of his appearances became a popularity contest. He was close to the people and was the embodiment of humility and loyalty.
In 2021, his grandson Mathieu van der Poel - a Dutch cyclist who came to cycling via mountain biking and cyclocross - set off on his first loop with the Belgian team Alpecin- Fenix. A few days before the start of the race, to mark the occasion, he paid homage to his grandfather, with whom he was very close and who often showed up to support him. Along with his team, they recreated a well-known pose of his grandfather’s and sported a jersey in Mercier’s emblematic colours.
The rest is now cycling history: a few kilometers from the finish line, Mathieu led two successive attacks to cross the finish line alone. The emotion was palpable. The spectators, the racers, the commentators… Everyone was touched by this incredible victory and the unique tie between the racer and his grandfather.
For Mercier, this stands to prove that cycling is so much more than just a sport, it's also a way of tying us together. It is a tie not only between the cyclists, but also between generations and all those who have cycled the path before us. We are not born cyclists, we become them and we inherit its history.
It can be said that this Sunday, June 27th, as he crossed the finish line, we all witnessed the tie between the cyclist and his grandfather, who left us only a few months ago.
Chapeau Mathieu et merci.