Eddy Merckx spreads the message of cycling to the kids of Oman
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Eddy Merckx spreads the message of cycling to the kids of Oman

by Ben Atkins at 1:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Oman
 
Cycling’s biggest legend seeks to inspire the next generation ahead of Middle Eastern race

eddy merckxCycling legend Eddy Merckx has been spreading the message of cycling in the Middle East, meeting up for a ride with 25 local school children in Muscat, Oman, ahead of the Tour of Oman, which starts tomorrow. The 65-year-old “Cannibal”, who won more races than any other rider in his career, has been working with the Tours of Qatar and Oman in an advisory capacity for a number of years; the ride with Omani children between the ages of 8 and 12 years was another event designed to inspire the local population to take up the sport.

"Inspiring the next generation is a key element of the Tour of Oman,” said His Eminence Sultan Hamdoon Al Harthi, Head of Muscat Municipality. “One year ago, cycling was not well known in Oman, but after the success of the first Tour, it is gaining momentum and we are honoured that Eddy was able to join us today to help personally motivate these children. We aim to grow this aspect of the Tour in future and involve more local schools and children."

Before Lance Armstrong, Merkx was virtually the only cyclist a non-cycling fan could name, but it seems that there are still some places in the World where his legend has not reached.

“I am a great fan of football and swimming and it was great fun to have the opportunity to go out cycling today,” said Hassan, one of the children on the ride. “I hadn't actually heard of Eddy Merckx before, but I now understand that he is a huge hero in Europe and I have now got to say hello to him. That is really cool!"

The eight-year-old Hussan was also delighted to have ridden with the Belgian legend, and now seems to be a new convert to the sport. "That was brilliant,” he said. “When can I go again?! Eddy smiled at me and helped one of my friends put the chain back on my bike. He seemed really nice."

With the race due to start with a flat 158km stage between as Sawadi and Al Seeb, to the west of Muscat, tomorrow, Merckx spoke to a local radio station about his enthusiasm for the race.

"Oman is a great country to organise a cycling race as we have everything here,” said the legendary Belgian, “we have the climbs, we have the flat we have the wind, so it is a perfect location for a race to also show off the country. Other sports only show off the stadium or the court and this enables us to show the whole country.

“We have big riders here this year, we have the world champion, big riders like Thor Hushovd, Alexandre Vinokourov, Taylor Phinney, Fabian Cancellara, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Oliver Rodriguez. Today we are going to ride with 25 kids to ride with them for the Muscat Festival. Kids are the begining and if they are doing sport they can do anything in life."

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