Rated by many as the best rider of all time, Eddy Merckx now believes that a sixth Tour win gives La
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE A significant voice has been added to the perennial debate about the best rider in cycling history. Eddy Merckx, the man rated by many as the best of all time, has said that Lance Armstrong’s sixth Tour de France victory makes the American a better rider than the legendary Belgian. Speaking at the Spanish cycling journalism awards in Madrid, where he was the guest of honour, Merckx said that he was happy to declare Armstrong the best of all time. “Armstrong is a better rider than me. The Tour is the most important race and Lance is the man who has won it most often. I’ve got no problem with the fact that he’s gone past what I achieved,” stated Merckx in an interview with AS. “Cycling has different eras – Indurain, Hinault, Armstrong, mine. Each of us competed at a different time. The important thing is to be the best rider of your generation, and beyond that it’s never good to make comparisons.” Merckx added that he thought Armstrong would ride next year’s Tour, believing that the possibility of winning a seventh title in succession would be enough to motivate the American. “I think he will end up riding the Tour because he’s got a new sponsor, the Discovery Channel, who will be keen to see whether the man who has won six Tours can take a seventh. He’s got a strong team, it’s a race that suits him, so I’m sure he will ride. It would be a shame if Armstrong was not to race.” As to potential successors to the American’s Tour throne, Merckx picked out this year’s best young rider at the Tour, Vladimir Karpets, Giro winner Damiano Cunego, Spanish sensation Alejandro Valverde and new French hope Thomas Voeckler. Asked what he thought was the solution to the series of doping scandals that have hit the sport in recent months, Merckx commented: “To find an answer you have to look to the team doctors, not the riders, because it is the doctors who are the problem.” On a personal note, the svelte-looking Merckx said that he had lost 25 kilos in recent months thanks to frequent mountain bike excursions and a new diet. As well as Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Pedro Delgado and Roberto Heras appeared at the awards. The illustrious quartet have won 11 Tours, seven Giros and six Vueltas between them.