Eddy Merckx’ 25 stage wins and 78 days spent in the leader’s pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia were acknowledged Thursday when he became the first inductee of the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame in Milan.
Merckx was presented the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame trophy for 1974, the year of his final Giro d’Italia victory.
“Being the first person in the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame is a great honor for me,” said Merckx. “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.”
Present at the event were former greats of the Merckx era, 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 Molteni team).
“Italian cycling gave me a lot,” continued Merckx. “My first big wins were in Italy. Then I joined an Italian team and learnt a lot. Fiorenzo Magni became a good friend. He took me to criteriums and then introduced me to 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.”
“Our era was special because all the great riders rode all the big races and competed against each other. It’s a pity that doesn’t happen very much today. For great races, you need great riders.”
Merckx rode Milan-San Remo ten times during his career and won it a record seven times. His favorite for this year’s win was Cavendish.
“I think there are a lot of favorites for this year’s Milan-San Remo. There are a lot of riders on form but if they don’t drop Cavendish on Poggio, he’ll be difficult to beat.”
“Cancellara looks good, so too do Sagan, Boonen and van Avermaet. Nobody has talked about Oscar Freire but he’ll be there after 300km and could win his fourth San Remo. 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.”
“Nibali is going well. He’s a classy rider, I saw him win a stage in Oman. 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-San Remo.”