In 1969, after having signed his first victory in the Tour de France, Eddy Merckx was received at the castle of Laeken by the Belgian King Baudouin and his wife Queen Fabiola.
It was Eddy Merckx himself who named it. His first victory in the Tour de France in 1969 – he will still be the winner of the Grande Boucle four times, in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974 – did not leave the King of the Belgians Baudouin indifferent. Quite the contrary. It must be said that it had been exactly 30 years since a Belgian had won this legendary competition. The last being Sylvère Maes in 1939.
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In the book “1969 – The year of Eddy Merckx” by Johny Vansevenant published in 2019 by Lannoo editions, the famous runner says that, when he received it that year, on July 21 just before the parade of On National Day, at the Château de Laeken with the entire Faema team of which he was a part, the sovereign, who was “a very jovial man”, told him that he “was very proud”. “He was very interested. He asked me, among other things, what my chickens were. He added that he had followed everything with passion on TV. It was great,” he says.
King Philippe who was 9 years old at the time has not forgotten anything
At the time, Baudouin’s nephew, the current King of the Belgians Philippe, was very young. While in 2019 he in turn welcomed Eddy Merckx to the castle of Laeken, the monarch told the newspaper “The evening that he hadn’t forgotten anything about this victory. “Fifty years ago, the whole country was jubilant, finally a Belgian had won the Tour de France again! “, he had written daily. “It was the first of five magnificent victories in the most prestigious cycling race and Eddy Merckx was welcomed as a true hero on his return to Belgium. I was nine years old at the time and already I perceived the impact of this superb victory. The emotion and joy that accompanied this performance are etched in my memory”, he continued, before concluding: “The whole world had discovered a new hero. All of Belgium was proud! “.