Axel Merckx is celebrating his 35th birthday Wednesday by retiring from professional cycling. He won his last race, a criterium in Lommel, Belgium, on Monday. He out-sprinted Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto) for the win, while Tom Boonen won the sprint of the following group.
Boonen had beaten Merckx earlier in the Meise-Wolvertem Criterium, and Merckx saw his win on Monday as a fair revenge. "Boonen won in my home town, so I wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine," the T-Mobile rider joked with HLN.be.
Merckx had previously announced that he would retire following the Tour de France. According to team spokesman Stefan Wagner, the Belgian was to ride four criteriums and then retire, moving to Canada the end of the month as he indicated in July.
He turned pro in 1993 with Team Telekom. In between spells with the German team, he rode for Motorola, Polti, Mapei-Quick.Step, Domo-Farm Frites, Lotto-Domo, Davitamon-Lotto and Phonak. He has started 15 Grand Tours, including nine editions of the Tours de France. He was Belgian National Champion in 2000 and he can look back on stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, Bayern Rundfahrt and Dauphiné Libéré, as well as wins in the Trittico Premondiale, GP de Wallonie and the Tour de l'Ain.