Eddy Merckx has sparked controversy on the eve of Paris-Roubaix by omitting former Classics rival Roger De Vlaeminck from his dream team for the race.
De Vlaeminck was known as Monsieur Paris-Roubaix because he won the Hell of the North four times (1972, 1974, 1975, and 1977) during his career - a feat that only Tom Boonen has equalled. De Vlaeminck beat Eddy Merckx in three of the editions of Paris-Roubaix he won and also finished second four times, third once, fifth once, sixth once, seventh twice. He only abandoned once, in 1980.
Merckx won Paris-Roubaix in 1968, 1970, and 1973 and the rivalry between his Molteni team and the De Vlaeminck’s Brooklyn squad was especially intense at Paris-Roubaix, with Merckx and De Vlaeminck often clashing in races and via the media.
Merckx preferred legendary Belgian Rik Van Steenbergen from the forties and fifties as his co-leader for his dream team. Van Steenbergen won Paris-Roubaix in 1948 and 1952.
“A team needs a sprinter who can finish things off in Roubaix and Flanders. His experience and longevity are essential for these two classics,” Merckx told l’Equipe as he named his Paris-Roubaix dream team.
"He (De Vlaeminck) won’t be happy when he finds out but too bad, he’ll have to get over it,” Merckx said, still clearly happy to stoke his eternal rivalry. De Vlaeminck has yet to read the article but is unlikely to let it go.
Madiot, Demeyer, Van Hooydonck, plus Albani and Lefevere
Also in Merckx’s dream team for Paris Roubaix are Frenchman and now FDJ team manager, Marc Madiot, who won Paris-Roubaix in 1985 and 1991, the 1989 Tour of Flanders winner Edwig Van Hooydonck, current Etixx-Quickstep rider Stijn Vandenbergh plus the late Marc Demeyer who won the 1976 edition of Paris-Roubaix captured in the documentary film A Sunday in Hell.
Merckx apparently took time to name his dream team, preferring to select riders who would help him win rather than a team of all-stars. Completing his dream team are Willy Bocklant – who rode with Van Steenbergen and won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as performing consistently well in all the Classics, Herman Van Springel – the seven-time winner of the long Bordeaux-Paris race.
Merckx selected his Italian Molteni directeur sportif Giorgio Albani and Etixx-Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere as his men in the team car.
“It wasn’t easy to do but it's was worth doing," Merckx said of dream team.
"I wanted to share the leadership role with Rik Van Steenbergen and it would have also been nice to have a rider like Stijn Vandenbergh as a teammate. The riders are from different periods, when tactics were different but the pave are still the same!”
In recent months Cyclingnews has also asked several current and former riders to name their dream teams. Click below to read who they want for the cobbled Classics, the Tour de France or an entire season.
- Patrick Lefevere's Classics dream team
- David Millar's cycling dream team
- Phil Anderson's cycling dream team
- Robert Millar's cycling dream team
- Allan Peiper's cycling dream team - Cyclingnews Podcast
- Carlos Sastre's cycling dream team
- Oscar Freire's cycling dream team
- Axel Merckx's cycling dream team
- Stephen Roche's dream team
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