Merckx’s persona looms large with two days to go to Grand Depart

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Two days before the first stage of the 106th Tour de France, the riders of the 22 teams summoned flock to Brussels, where we celebrate even more than usual the champion of the whole country Eddy Merckx, whose portrait in Yellow Jersey poster in ultra-large format. The champions of the year and even of the future have also made their way to the stage, the young Remco Evenepoel having participated with Greg van Avermaet in the children’s conference, while Thibaut Pinot has not made a secret of his ambitions in front of the journalists. 

STATISTICS: MOVISTAR AND INEOS AT THE TOP OF THE TABLES
22 teams will start from the first stage on Saturday morning. All have to their credit the experience of the event, with at least two entries in their history.

– The oldest is the Spanish Movistar, engaged 36 times in a row since the 1983 edition (Angel Arroyo dolphin Laurent Fignon), under the name Reynolds and Banesto, Balearic Islands, Caisse d’Epargne until the resumption of the team by the telephone group in 2011. Follows closely in the thread of the history the Dutch Jumbo-Visma, heiress of Kwantum-Hallen of Jan Raas (on the Tour from 1984), Superconfex, Buckler, WordPerfect , Novell, Rabobank, Belkin and LottoNL. It has 35 participations, three more than Lotto-Soudal. The first training sponsored by the Belgian national lottery appeared in 1985 but missed two editions of the Great Loop. Among the French, AG2R-La Mondiale is the most capped with 25 participations, ahead of Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ which count each 22, without interruption since 1997.

– Team Ineos leads the Yellow Jersey ranking for having dominated the overall ranking 88 times (since 2012, under the name Team Sky), ahead of Movistar, 79 times in the lead (the last one was in 2008 with Alejandro Valverde). Arkéa-Samsic, Bahrain-Merida, Katusha-Alpecin and Wanty-Groupe Gobert are the teams that have never experienced the joys of the Yellow Jersey. 

– Jumbo-Visma has the most stage wins (53), ahead of Deceuninck-Quick Step (37), Lotto-Soudal (33) and Movistar (32). Arkéa-Samsic, Bahrain-Merida and Wanty-Groupe Gobert are the teams that have never won a stage. 

– Four teams have already won the Tour de France: Movistar (7), Ineos (6), Astana (2) and CCC (1). 

EDDY MERCKX … ALWAYS GREATER

He continues to break records. The biggest champion in the history of cycling, with 525 victories in total, including 5 on the Tour de France, from its first participation 50 years ago, is honored throughout the week of the Grand Départ of Brussels. And for the inauguration of the permanence and the press center, orchestrated by the director of the Tour Christian Prudhomme and the mayor of Brussels Philippe Close, a gigantic tarpaulin was unveiled, stretched on a lawn located between the Atomium and the park of the exhibitions, with Eddy Merckx wearing his finest coat, the Yellow Jersey. The champion’s radiant face is displayed on 3272 square meters, the largest canvas ever produced and exhibited in Belgium. 

BELGIAN CHAMPIONS BEFORE THEIR YOUNG SUPPORTERS

A meeting point for all the followers leaving for the Tour, the organization’s permanent residence also hosts many runners for press conferences, but the first of these has traditionally been dedicated since 2015 to children from cycling of the region, who submit to the question the champions they usually encourage in front of their screens. 

This year, the young Belgians had the visit of the Olympic champion Greg Avermaet, of Maxime Monfort but also of the national hope Remco Evenepoel, hardly older than them but which has already wreaked havoc by becoming double junior world champion . Accustomed to the comparison, the neo-pro engaged at Deceuninck-Quick Step was questioned about his desire to walk in the footsteps of Eddy Merckx:”The first thing, it will be first to participate in the Tour de France. And doing it as well seems difficult, especially since the times have changed, ” politely developed the boy. 

The winner of Paris-Roubaix 2017 is more confident about his expectations for the 2019 edition: “My motivation is increased tenfold with this start of the Tour in Belgium and especially with passages in the first stage by the Wall of Grammont and the Bosberg. I hope to win a stage this year and I would like it to be in my country. We have a chance to do it on the team time trial “. The leader of CCC keeps in mind his victory in the collective exercise with BMC last year in Cholet, which allowed him to don the Yellow Jersey for two days. It will be necessary to be on the same level to be able to keep the commitment taken before the children! 

GROUPAMA-FDJ LOOKS VERY HIGH

French training was the first to appear before journalists at the press center, in an atmosphere of solemnity that Marc Madiot always installs when detailing his objectives for “the greatest race in the world” . The manager highlighted the change of course compared to last year, when his group was built around Arnaud Démare:”This time, our ambition is in the mountains. We have a strong and complete workforce. We know that Ineos has the keys of the truck, but there are a dozen others who are able to tickle them, to jostle them and why not annihilate them in the general classification. We are part of it ” . It is of course on its leader Thibaut Pinot who put Madiot. 

And the principal concerned confesses a different determination of the previous years with the approach of the Tour:”Last year it was difficult to be in care at that time and watch the race in my couch. This is where I really realized what the Tour is all about. Now I have been able to follow an optimal presentation since December with the seven riders who are around me today. I have not been so ready since 2014 ” . Five years ago, Pinot finished the Great Loop on the Champs-Elysées podium behind Vincenzo Nibali and Jean-Christophe Péraud.

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