The more Tours he lost, the more the crowds liked him and the more he earned. At the height of his celebrity, in the mid-1970s, almost half of respondents to one poll made him their first choice as a dinner guest. In 1974 alone more than 4,000 articles were written about him, besides university theses and sociological studies.
He lent his name to sports bikes, and given half a chance would stand in supermarkets shouting "Just the right bike for you, sir!" Later, as a national treasure, he had a rose named after him, and appeared along the route of the Tour in yellow outfits and with trinkets in his hands, cheered by all who saw him. This adulation came not simply because he failed, but because of the manner of his failing.
He did not get up each morning with the thought of winning. He did not think of winning at all. His manager complained that he was always in a daydream, and it was true. Everything that was happening to him was marvelous enough. His memoir was called "La gloire sans maillot jaune", glory without the jersey, which in the end he didn't need. Eight times he had got within touching distance, and lost them all. But he could still say, as he often did, "Look how close I came!"