Eddy Merckx was one of the first to congratulate Edvald Boasson after he won stage three at the Tour of Oman on Tuesday and extended his overall lead to ten seconds.
Merckx is part of the organising team for the new stage race. He convinced the Municipality of Muscat to fund the race and brought in ASO to organize the technical details.
The Belgian is widely acknowledged as the best rider of all time because of the results he achieved during his career in the late 1960s and 1970s. He has been out riding most days in Qatar and Oman and still knows how to spot a good rider.
"It was fantastic what he did in the sprint. I think that he's the best young rider we have in cycling at the moment," Merckx told Cyclingnews after warmly congratulating Boasson Hagen.
"He's young but you can see he's a complete rider. I'm very impressed. He was good when he won Ghent-Wevelgem and all the other races but now he's even better. He's thinner and stronger and although he spent most of the winter in Norway, he was still good enough to win here. That shows how talented he really is."
When told that Boasson Hagen has been nicknamed "Eddy" at Team sky, Merckx let out an appreciative laugh.
"That's nice. I hope he'll go on to be better than me," he said.
Boasson Hagen might not go on to better Merckx but he has already earned the respect of another Belgian cycling great: Tom Boonen.
The Quick Step rider and current Belgian national champion was beaten in the sprint by Boasson Hagen and finished fourth behind Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions).
"He's fast, eh," Boonen admitted as he recovered from the stage. "I started my sprint 20 metres behind and there was no way I'd could catch him."
For Boasson Hagen, compliments like these probably mean as much as winning itself.
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