Share article:
Share article:

World pays birthday tribute to Eddy Merckx, 75

Eddy Merck in pre-lockdown times. © Belga

Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx yesterday turned 75 – or as he put it, “three times 25,” receiving birthday greetings from the nation and the world.

As well as visits from close friends at his home in Meise just outside Brussels, Merckx – de rigeur in these corona times – also received messages from cyclist Tom Boonen, national football captain Vincent Company and no less than Prince Albert of Monaco.

His biggest surprise, however, may have been the delegation from VTM and the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, who showed up at his door as arranged, but also accompanied by three old cycling companions of Merckx: Jos De Schoenmaecker (72), Jos Spruyt (77) en Willy Vekemans (75).

Recent months have been tough for Merckx. In October last year he suffered a fall and loss of consciousness which saw him confined to quarters just months before the same fate was to befall everyone in the country.

Admittedly, Merckx’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Brussels must not be the worst place to be confined, but he regularly lamented the effect of the lockdown on today’s cyclists. Under the rules, they were allowed to go out cycling, but not in the fashion they are used to in their training, in peleton-sized numbers.

I wouldn’t want to have been a cyclist in 2020,” he remarked. “It must have been terrible for athletes.”

Despite the continuing limits on gatherings, Merckx received messages from 75 notables.

From the world of cycling: Sven Nys, Niels Albert, Victor Campenaerts, Roger De Vlaeminck and many more.

From the world of sport: former footballer and manager Johan Boskamp, Kim Clijsters, Kim Gevaert, swimmer Fred Deburghgraeve, José Mourinho and Eden Hazard.

From fans: Arno, Adamo, Guido Belcanto, Walter Grootaers, Helmut Lotti and Will Tura.

And from politics: Herman Van Rompuy and Flemish minister Ban Weyts.

After the celebration, Merckx had plans.

“Depending on the weather, we will take a bike ride with my team mates from the past,” he told the local VRT radio station. “And in the evening we’ll go out for dinner with the children, grandchildren and friends. But not with more than ten people. We still respect the corona measures.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...
Almost half of Belgian subsidies from EU left unused
Belgium left almost half (49%) of its subsidies allocated by the European Union between 2013 and 2020 unused, the equivalent of around €1.375 ...
Visitors to embark on Orient Express adventure at Brussels exhibition
An exhibition dedicated to the Orient Express – the train that was the scene for many novels, including Agatha Christie's – allows visitors to ...