GettyImages-102618090
Getty Images

Prosecutor: Eddy Merckx to be charged in corruption case

Leave a comment

BRUSSELS — Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx, considered by many the greatest cyclist of all time, will be charged Wednesday in a Belgian corruption case linked to irregular purchases of equipment by Brussels-area police and municipalities, a Brussels prosecutor said.

The prosecutor, who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Merckx is accused of corruption and the use of false documents in the sale of 46 bicycles by his then-company Cycles Eddy Merckx to police in southern Brussels in 2006-07.

The contract, worth an estimated 15,000 euros ($16,700), was allegedly obtained after a policeman furnished Merckx with inside information. Merckx allegedly rewarded the officer by selling him a carbon-fiber bicycle at a low price and giving a bicycle to the man’s wife.

If found guilty of the charges against him, the prosecutor said, Merckx could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. He said such a heavy sentence was unlikely for a person many Belgians consider their country’s greatest hero.

Twelve others, including two former high-ranking police officers, are also charged in the case.

“What Merckx is accused of is really small potatoes compared to some of the others,” the prosecutor said. Some of the irregular procurements involved Toyota vehicles and security cameras, according to published accounts.

Merckx, 70, could not immediately be reached for comment, but was quoted by the Belgian daily newspaper Derniere Heure as saying, “I have nothing to say. We’ll see what happens.”

After the criminal charges are confirmed by the Brussels prosecutor’s office, a panel of judges will decide whether the case should proceed to trial. The panel is expected to consider the case in early September, the prosecutor said.

Ferdy Kuebler, 1950 Tour de France champion, dies at 97

ap_070501010782
AP Photo
Leave a comment

LONDON — Ferdy Kuebler, who came back from injury and the interruption of World War II to win the 1950 Tour de France, has died. He was 97.

The Swiss won an epic battle with French rider Louison Bobet in the 1950 race, and became world champion the following year.

Andre Haefliger, the chief reporter at Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte, said from Kuebler’s home in Switzerland on Friday that he could confirm the death on behalf of Kuebler’s widow, Christina. Kuebler died Thursday at a Zurich hospital. He had been suffering from a cold.

Switzerland’s national cycling association, Swiss Cycling, paid tribute to Kuebler and offered its condolences to his family. “We are taking leave of one of the greatest cycling legends of our time,” it wrote on its website.

For many, his biggest achievement was winning the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, then held on successive days, in both 1951 and 1952.

In an era of marathon races on poor roads, Kuebler also won the 1953 Bordeaux-to-Paris after 570 kilometers (356 miles) and more than 14 hours in the saddle.

Born July 24, 1919, into a poverty-stricken family near Zurich, Kuebler knew as a child that he wanted to be a professional cyclist.

Forced as a teenager to find work to support his family, he got a job delivering bread by bicycle.

“I had to climb the mountain up to four times a day. That was how I trained for my career. I told myself: one day you will be a cyclist,” Kuebler said in a 2003 television documentary.

Later, as a Zurich office worker, Kuebler cycled the 100-kilometer (63-mile) round trip from home.

World War II broke out as he was starting to make his name as a cyclist. Kuebler was drafted into the Swiss army.

“I lost five or six of my best years,” he said.

An accident in 1946 that hospitalized him for two months almost ended his postwar career.

He came back in 1947 and started his first Tour, aged 28. He won the first stage, becoming the first post-war wearer of the famed yellow jersey.

In 1950, third-placed Kuebler took over the race lead when Italy’s team of riders withdrew, accusing spectators of assaulting them.

He finished the 4,773 kilometers (2,983 miles) 9 minutes, 30 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Stan Ockers, with Bobet third.

Kuebler chose not to race another Tour until 1954. He finished second, behind Bobet.

After retiring at age 38, Kuebler trained as a ski instructor and worked on the Swiss slopes for 25 winters. In summer he did publicity for the Tour de Suisse and traveled with the race as an official for 35 years.

Kuebler said there was never any other career for him except cycling.

“I always said if I came back to earth – which I hope will happen – I would be a cyclist again,” he said.

New Zealanders join Lance Armstrong in early morning ride

gettyimages-630260696
Getty Images
Leave a comment

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Several hundred cyclists turned out Tuesday for an early morning ride with Lance Armstrong, who is in New Zealand to film a commercial for a local brewery.

Armstrong issued an invitation by social media to join him cycling around Auckland’s waterfront and a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 turned out.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling in 2013 after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.

Armstrong told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he was glad to know he still has some support.

New Zealand’s Lion Breweries has confirmed it brought the 45-year-old Texan to New Zealand. In an internal staff email, the brewer said “we are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called `The Consequence’, which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs.”

“We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn’t think of anyone better to demonstrate that than Lance,” the email said.

Armstrong arrived in Auckland on Sunday from Houston, telling reporters he is in New Zealand on business but has bought his bike and golf clubs.

He took part in a ride later that day with a small group including New Zealand Ironman triathlon champion Cameron Brown.