By Julien Pretot
MUR DE BRETAGNE, France (Reuters) – Mathieu van der Poel fulfilled his late grandfather Raymond Poulidor’s lifetime dream when he claimed the Tour de France yellow jersey with a stunning, emotional win in the second stage on Sunday.
The Dutchman produced a brutal acceleration with 700 meters left in the final ascent to Mur de Bretagne to beat defending champion Tadej Pogacar and his fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who were second and third respectively, six seconds behind.
The 26-year-old, making his Tour debut, burst into tears when it was confirmed that he had moved to the top of the overall standings.
“It’s too bad that he (Poulidor) cannot be here, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Van der Poel of his grandfather, France’s most famous cyclist, who died in November 2019 aged 83.
“It would have been so great to have a picture of him and me with the yellow jersey.”
Having also picked up eight bonus seconds in the first of two ascents to Mur de Bretagne, Van der Poel took the overall leader’s yellow jersey from France’s Julian Alaphilippe and now leads the world champion by eight seconds.
Poulidor never wore the coveted jersey in 14 participations between 1962-76 but won seven stages and finished eight times on the podium.
Van der Poel had set his sights on the jersey as the profile of the first two stages suited his qualities but was powerless against Alaphilippe in Saturday’s first stage, finishing eight seconds off the pace.
On Sunday, he made up for the lost time by grabbing the bonus seconds in the first climb to Mur de Bretagne (2km at 6.9%) and completed his mission on the second ascent.
“It’s quite unbelievable. The first time on Mur de Bretagne, I attacked to get the bonus because I knew it was the way to get the yellow jersey and today was my last chance to get it,” said Van der Poel, who is not contesting the overall win.
“Then I knew I had to also win the stage with a small gap.”
Stage winners on the Tour de France earn a 10-second bonus.
“I’m quite speechless actually that it worked out. You can dream of a scenario like this but for it to come true is unbelievable.”
Among the title contenders, Pogacar and Roglic, first and second last year in Paris, showed they had good legs as they beat the rest of the field and also picked up bonus seconds after already being solid in Saturday’s opening stage.
Overall, Pogacar is third, 13 seconds behind Van der Poel, with Roglic in fourth one second further behind.
Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, cracked in the final meters and lost 17 seconds to the Slovenian duo, slipping down to 20th overall, 41 seconds off the pace.