Photo of the week: Hero’s welcome

Summary

The Tour de France takes off from Brussels this weekend, and central to activities is the one and only Eddy Merckx

Week of the Grand Départ

Flemish cycling legend Eddy Merckx was, as the Flemish say, in de bloemetjes gezet yesterday in Brussels for the first day of The Week of the Grand Départ. The Tour de France is departing from the capital this weekend for the first time in 60 years.

It was chosen for a reason: this year is the 50th anniversary of Merckx’s first Tour victory (there would be four more). It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Yellow Jersey – which Merckx, incidentally, wore 111 times, still an all-time record.

Merckx, who has lived his entire life in Flemish Brabant, was in Grote Markt yesterday for the introduction of the Belgian teams taking part in the Tour. Some 75,000 people crowded the square to get a glimpse of the cycling hero and cheer for the home teams.

“I hope that everyone here will enjoy the start of the Tour de France as much as I plan to,” said Merckx. “I am so grateful to Brussels for making me such a big part of this event.”

The Week of the Grand Départ includes a Fan Park at De Brouckère, the final of the (extraordinarily competitive) Eddy Merckx board game championships and the first two stages of the 106th edition of the world’s most famous cycle race.

Photo: Yorick Jansens/BELGA

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.
5

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years