French president Nicolas Sarkozy will honor Eddy Merckx by elevating the Belgian cycling legend to the highest possible Legion of Honor grade at the Elysee Palace next week, reports said on Tuesday. Boasting victories in almost every professional race of significance, Merckx, known as ‘the Cannibal’ for his voracious victory appetite, is considered the most successful cyclist of all time.
The 66-year-old Belgian now produces racing bikes in his own name but his past achievements will come into focus on December 15 when Sarkozy promotes him from Chevalier (Knight) to Commander of the Legion of Honor.
“It’s a considerable honor,” Merckx, who was initially made Chevalier at the start of the 1975 Tour de France, told Le Soir newspaper.
Merckx is remembered for five victories in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia stages races, one Tour of Spain victory, three world road race crowns, the world hour record and a total of 31 wins in the one-day classics. There are five grades in the Legion of Honor, which can be bestowed upon non-French citizens: Chevalier, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer and Grand-Croix.