by Benedict Vanclooster on 26 June 2021
So, there he was, sitting at his stand all, set up for the occasion in an E. Leclerc store in Chantonnay, in the Vendée Department. Raymond Poulidor, called the ''éternel second' (always second)) although in the final ranking of the Tour de France he finished third five times and 'only' second three times.

A department store as the setting for an interview was new to us. For Poupou (as he was called), the E. Leclerc sites were pretty much home from home. He does about 40 department store sessions a year, all over France, a sort of Santa Claus. Then, from 10 am to 7 pm, he sits at a table, while the moments of glory of his career are played on a TV screen in the background and people line up for an autograph, more than 40 years after he rode his last race, back in 1977.

The same questions and comments are often put to him: that he should have won the Tour de France, he has suffered a lot of bad luck, the duels with Jacques Anquetil are something people really miss. But Poulidor never tires. He really enjoys these human contacts. It will be such a sad day when he has to bow out of life as a complete unknown, he says. Poulidor regularly spends two days in a row signing his autograph. He then stays at a hotel, where, in the evening he calls his publisher to find out how things are going. Poupou has never put his signature on a photo or a collector's card that people have brought along themselves, but only on one of the four different books about him that are offered for sale. Ca marche bien (It's going well), he says. About 100 books a day are generally sold.

Sometimes the department store customers can hardly believe their eyes. Are you really Mr. Poulidor?" is the question they throw at him. Too much of a temptation, Poupou thinks, not to take them up on it at such a moment. So he replies, "No, I am not him, but people do think I am him. Mr. Poulidor doesn't go to department stores, that doesn't happen!' - 'Unbelievable, especially as you also have the same voice as well!' Once he went a bit too far with this little game, says Poulidor mischievously. A lady got all upset about the 'deceit' and immediately called the department store manager. Misleading advertising!', she said. 'You have no right to announce Poulidor if he is not there in person!'

Koers - EN

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