King Philippe has written a thank you letter to Eddy Merckx, one week before the Tour de France kicks off in Brussels.
It is now 50 years since ‘the Cannibal’ won the competition for the first time. “I would like to thank you on behalf of the country”, the King said in his letter, which was published by Sudpresse on Saturday.
“Our country was on Cloud Nine 50 years ago: 30 years after the last Belgian Tour de France victory (Sylvère Maes’ second), another Belgian had finally won the famous Tour. This was only the first of your five victories in the Tour, but in 1969 you were welcomed home a hero”, King Philippe wrote in his letter to Mr Merckx.
“I was nine years old at the time, just old enough to understand the impact it had. I still remember the stress and joy people were feeling across the country. The joy in particular was visible everywhere. The entire world saw you as a hero. We were so proud!”, the King continued.
“You managed one win after another and beat several records. You became a legend, a model of strength and perseverance. Despite all the success, you remained grounded and easy-going. You maintained a relationship with your supporters and the population. We can say without hesitation that you are the best cyclist of all time. The feeling of pride is unforgettable”.
“This year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of your first win. A moment that is engraved in our memory and which moved the entire population. I would like to thank you on behalf of the country”, King Philippe concluded.