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Legendary cyclist Eddy Merckx releases new book on the 50th anniversary of his first Tour de France victory, as Brussels gears up to welcome the race’s Grand Départ

One incredible year

The Tour de France sets off from Brussels this summer, 50 years after legendary local cyclist Eddy Merckx claimed the first of his five victories in the race. A new book published this week looks back at a dramatic year.

Besides his first Tour victory, 1969 was also the year in which Brusselaar Merckx won some of cycling’s most prestigious races: Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. 1969: The Year of Eddy Merckx by VRT journalist Johny Vansevenant tells the story of his victories, his records and a disputed doping test.

The Tour’s Grand Départ comes to Brussels on 6 and 7 July, with a 192km road race from the capital to Charleroi and back, followed by team time trials the next day beginning at the Royal Palace in the city centre and finishing at the Atomium. The city is organising a host of cycle-themed events in the run-up to the big day.

Photo: Author Johny Vansevenant (left) with Eddy Merckx at the launch of his book this week in Brussels’ City Hall
© Belga/Kurt Desplenter

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.

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