By Shane Stokes
Axel Merckx was on the attack yesterday in Flèche Wallonne, testing his legs before what he hopes will be a strong ride in his final Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. After a long career, the 34 year-old T-Mobile rider is in his final few months of racing, and confirmed to Cyclingnews yesterday that he is ready to hang up his wheels.
"It is my last season," he said. "There is a time to start, a time to go and I feel that I am ready to retire now, enjoy my family and start a new part of my life. We will move to Canada. We have a house there already so we will settle down there and then start something there, or in Europe... it depends."
Before he goes, he is hoping to add to a palmarès which includes an Olympic bronze medal, stage wins in the Tour of Italy and Dauphiné Libéré and tenth place overall in the Tour de France. Following previous career placings of fifth and seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, another strong showing there would be a very welcome result.
"Liège has always been a target for me, always a pretty important part of the season. If I have a good showing at these races it is important... not just for the team, but for me personally, also."
Cyclingnews also asked him his view of Tuesday's meeting between ASO and the ProTour teams, regarding stepping up the anti-doping fight and proposed DNA tests on all the riders linked to Operación Puerto. "It [the meeting] doesn't change anything for us on T-Mobile, as we already have contracts to give DNA. It doesn't concern us [directly], it doesn't change anything," he replied.
As regards the situation with Ivan Basso and the new investigation into his possible involvement with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, Merckx said that he wasn't sure of the full facts. "I haven't talked to the rest of the guys around here. A lot of things have been said about it, but I don't know the bottom line of it and the full story of what is going on. I only know that he is not here today and that Discovery have suspended him, or rather made him non-active for a while. We will see how it goes from there."