Much-admired Tour de France cyclist Poulidor dies at age 83

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BRUSSELS — Raymond Poulidor, known as the “eternal runner-up” behind five-time Tour de France winners Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx, has died. He was 83 years old.

Arguably France’s most popular cyclist, Poulidor secured a record eight podium finishes at cycling’s showpiece event during his career but never won it, and never wore the race leader’s famed yellow jersey.

Tour de France organizers confirmed Poulidor’s death on Wednesday after Tour director Christian Prudhomme spoke with his family.

Poulidor had been hospitalized last month after a bout of fatigue he suffered this summer during the Tour, where he worked every year as an ambassador for the yellow jersey’s sponsor. Quite ironically, considering he never got to wear it during his racing career, he wore a yellow shirt every day for this activity during the grueling stage race.

Poulidor, who took part in 14 Tours from 1962-76, finished in second place three times and was third five times. The fact he never quite got the better of the elegant but tough Anquetil made him a firm favorite with fans.

The son of sharecroppers, Poulidor’s popularity was unmatched despite never winning the Tour.

Nicknamed “Poupou” by his adoring fans, Poulidor was a loveable and down to earth competitor. He kept the same warmth and approachability after his career ended, always up for a chat with his admirers and ready to sign autographs or pose for pictures.

Poulidor turned professional in 1960 and achieved much success with the French Mercier team before he retired in 1977, a year after he finished third in his final Tour de France behind Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk at the age of 40.

Poulidor’s career appeared somewhat cursed by ill fate, since it came during an era of greatness in cycling and wedged him between incredibly strong riders Anquetil and Merckx, who both won a record five Tours.

Despite falling short at the Tour, he was more than merely a second fiddle. He was an all-rounder graced by great climbing skills and posted prestigious wins at the Milan-San Remo and Walloon Arrow classics, the Spanish Vuelta – his only Grand Tour win – and the Paris-Nice stage race.

His rivalry with Anquetil in the 1960’s dominated the sporting agenda, splitting France into two camps, and his Tour ambitions were later frustrated by Merckx’s sheer dominance.

It did not prevent him from taking the spotlight and making headlines. In 1962, he made his Tour debut with a broken finger and put on a great show in the Alps to win a daunting stage featuring five climbs with a commanding three-minute lead.

Two years later, Poulidor started the `64 Tour with the favorite’s tag on his back, having won the Vuelta earlier that year. After dropping Anquetil during a Pyrenean stage, he reached the top of the port d’Envalira climb with a three-minute lead over his nemesis. But Anquetil rode at breakneck speed in the descent to catch up with his rival, before Poulidor hit the tarmac in the fog and eventually lost two minutes.

At the `68 Tour, he was involved in a serious crash after a motorbike knocked him over and fell on top of him.

“I was unlucky, but the bike brought me more than it cost me,” Poulidor once said, reflecting on his mishap with typical wry humor.

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

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MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.