Paris-Roubaix 1973, Eddy Merckx
Eddy Merckx with Roger de Vlaminck in the 1973 edition of Paris-Roubaix, the final of Merckx' three wins. Photo: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) — French president Nicolas Sarkozy will honor Eddy Merckx by elevating the Belgian cycling legend to the highest possible Legion of Honour grade at the Elysee Palace next week, reports said on Tuesday.

Boasting victories in almost every professional race of significance, Merckx is considered the most successful cyclist of all time.

The 66-year-old Belgian now produces racing bikes in his own name but his past achievements will come into focus on December 15 when Sarkozy promotes him from Chevalier (Knight) to Commandeur of the Legion of Honour. He was initially made Chevalier at the start of the 1975 Tour de France,

“It’s a considerable honor,” Merckx told Le Soir newspaper.

Merckx is remembered for five victories in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, one Vuelta a España victory, three world road race crowns, the world hour record and 31 wins in the one-day classics.

There are five grades in the Legion of Honour that can be bestowed upon non-French citizens: Chevalier, Officier, Commandeur, Grand Officier and Grand-Croix.