In an interview this week with the Spanish newspaper, AS, cycling legend Eddy Merckx said that Fernando Alonso’s cycling project is one of the best things to happen to cycling in a long time.
“It’s downright exciting news, the best cycling has received in recent years, if not the best,” Merckx said to Spanish newspaper AS. “No doubt it will be a major project, as he has already announced it. I hope his arrival brings more sponsors to our sport to grow, which it deserves after this bad time.”
Despite experiencing a few setbacks, Alonso has definitive plans to launch his new cycling initiative in time for the 2015 season.
Given the number of teams that folded at the end of the 2013 season, Merckx feels that the sport is in great need of new sponsors. Furthermore, he believes that doping scandals are no longer a barrier to teams entering the sport and says that cycling is in a better position than it has ever been when it comes to the fight against doping.
“I think that cycling has never been cleaner than now. There are many measures employed to ensure the race results, from the controls to the biological passport, which I consider a very useful tool,” he explained.
The Belgian iconic says the biggest issue facing cycling is sponsorship is money, which is proving to be increasingly more difficult to secure.
“For me, the main problem is the economic crisis that has affected the whole world. Once the storm passes I am sure things will go better and you can get money back.”
Over the past decade, Merckx has championed the efforts of expanding the sport of cycling to the Middle East. This year, he helped organize the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, with assistance from ASO.
However, Merckx thinks there’s still more room to expand in the region, the the Middle East could hold the key to cycling’s future.
“Qatar and Oman have been joined this season by Dubai, and Bahrain also seem ready to assemble something like these countries.
“I maintain a very good relationship with Qatar and its emir, and I am proud to work and have brought the bikes there. Others have imitated their example. Perhaps the evolution of cycling depends on its expansion and investment from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Merckx is also involved in the organization of the World Championships, which will take place in Qatar in 2016. Last month, he confirmed that the event will be moved to later in the the season, as to avoid the extreme heat that the region experiences in September, with a possible date of 9-16 October.
“It is most feasible to shuffle things and delay it three weeks, until October, to avoid the high temperatures that we could encounter.”
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