Eddy Merckx inducted as first member of the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eddy Merckx inducted as first member of the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame

by Ben Atkins at 3:51 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Giro di Lombardia, Milan-Sanremo
 
Sole surviving five-time winner of la Corsa Rosa presented with commemorative Trofeo Senza Fine

eddy merckxCycling legend Eddy Merckx has been inducted as the first member of the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame, in a special ceremony in Milan. The 66-year-old Belgian is the only living rider to have won the Corsa Rosa five times [in 1968, 1970, and 1972-74], a record he shares with Italian legends Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi, and is the only rider ever to have also won five Tours de France.

To mark the occasion Merckx, who was known as the Cannibal due to the way he devoured his opponents, was presented with a commemorative ‘Trofeo Senza Fine’; the golden coiled Never-ending Trophy, which has been awarded to winners of the race since 1999.

“Being the first person in the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame is a great honour for me,” said Merckx at the presentation. “I consider Italy my second home. I’m loved as much in Italy as I am in Belgium. I have a lot of fans here and that’s very special for me

“Italian cycling gave me a lot,” he continued. “My first big wins were in Italy. Then I joined an Italian team and learnt a lot. [Three-time Giro winner, and three-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner] Fiorenzo Magni became a good friend. He took me to critériums and then introduced me to [Ernesto] Colnago, who became my mechanic and built my bike for the hour record.

“After that Ugo De Rosa taught me how to make bikes and helped me create my own bike company.”

Merckx, Binda and Coppi head the list of winners with five each, they sit above a long list of three-time winners that includes Coppi’s great rival Gino Bartali and Merckx’s fellow five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault. The nearest active rider to top of the list is Ivan Basso, with two victories, who will aim to join the likes of Bartali and Hinault this year.

With modern cycling a sport of specialists, where Grand Tour riders rarely compete against Classics specialists though, Merckx recalled the days when riders such as him raced to win every week.

“Our era was special because all the great riders rode all the big races and competed against each other,” he said. “It’s a pity that doesn’t happy very much today. For great races, you need great riders.”

Present at the presentation were a number of other former greats of the Merckx era and his former directeur sportif and mechanics, including Alfredo Martini, Fiorenzo Magni, Ernesto Colnago, Gianni Motta, Italo Zilioli, Giorgio Albani, Davide Boifava, Ugo De Rosa and Mario Molteni, the son of the sponsor of Merckx’s legendary, iconic Molteni team.

With the ceremony taking place just two days before the 103rd edition of Milano-Sanremo, Merckx understandably had some things to say about the race in which he holds the outright record with an incredible seven victories.

“I think there are a lot of favourites for this year’s Milan-Sanremo,” he said. “There are a lot of riders on form but if they don’t drop [World champion Mark] Cavendish on Poggio, he’ll be difficult to beat.”

“[Fabian] Cancellara looks good, so too do [Peter] Sagan, [Tom] Boonen and [Greg] Van Avermaet,” he added. “Nobody has talked about [three-time winner] Oscar Freire but he’ll be there after 300km and could win his fourth Sanremo. [Philippe] Gilbert isn’t so on form but we’ll see what happens; though if he was dropped in a team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, it’s not a good sign.

Of the Italian riders, it’s no surprise that Merckx has highlighted the recent Tirreno-Adriatico winner as the one to watch on Saturday.

“[Vincenzo] Nibali is going well, he’s a classy rider, I saw him win a stage in Oman,” he said. “However he’s got to learn to use his head more and race more intelligently. He lost Oman because he made a mistake. If he’s going well, he could get away on the Poggio and so perhaps win Milan-Sanremo.”

In addition to Merckx’ five Giri and seven Sanremos, he also won the other Italian Monument, the Giro di Lombardia - which is also run by Giro organiser RCS Sport - twice.

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