Poupou Comes to Town

Since you don’t turn 50 every day, I thought I’d start this post by sharing my partner (no, not THAT kind of partner) John’s big event with you. We had a nice evening at a local winery the other night with plenty of friends from the large web John has managed to weave over the past 10 years in France.

Below, John is blowing out candles on a Mont Ventoux cake, with his lovely daughters, Mia and Cloe, standing by for cutting duties. So far I haven’t seen much physical or mental damage since his birthday, which is good news because I’m only 18 months behind.

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But we’re not here to talk about John (sorry , John). It’s Poupou’s turn.

A poupou is a wall panel located underneath the veranda of a Māori wharenui.

I just learned this from Wikipedia, but a Poupou is also an 80 year old cycling legend named Raymond Poulidor. ‘The Eternal Second’, M. Poulidor never won the Tour de France, but came 2nd three times and 3rd five times. He had the unfortunate luck to enter into his profession when Jacques Anquetil was collecting his 5 TDF titles, and winding it down as Eddy Merkcx came around and won everything he could (which was ‘everything’).

He wasn’t always 2nd, you’ll be glad to know. He won the Vuelta a Espana, Milan San Remo, Paris-Nice (at 37),  and 6 or so TDF stages (the last at age 38)

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Poulidor, though, had a secret weapon: he was likable. Not only that, he came from a poor farming family in the middle of France (he never rode on a train till they shipped him off for military service). He spoke plainly (still does) and, maybe most importantly, was always on the attack on the road. The French public adored him for the better part of 20 years.

He has one fault, though – he can’t understand my accent, signing my book ‘Gerard’ instead of ‘Gerald’.
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But I don’t hold grudges long and the book signing turned into a viewing of a documentary that was made on Raymond 20 years ago, followed by a Q&A hosted by a France3 Sports guy.

The documentary was pretty ‘cookie cutter’, but it was a great intro to the man, and even brought tears to his eyes when he saw the old film footage of his mother in their farmhouse in Limousin. The oddest thing for me, though, was watching a movie about a man (a very famous man – I am occasionally saluted by pedestrians with ‘Allez Poupou’ when I’m on my bike in Nimes) who was sitting two rows ahead of me in the room. It must have been even weirder for him.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve crossed paths with Poupou (don’t call him that, he hates it) because he is a familiar figure at the first pro stage race in France each year – Etoile de Bessèges, which I always find myself at.  In just over 2 more months I hope we’ll meet again.

Sincerely,

Gerard