TORINO, Italy (VN) – When Eddy Merckx speaks, people take notice. The 65-year-old Belgian won five Giro d’Italia titles during his prolific career and calls Italy his “second home.”
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, published Saturday before the start of the 94th Giro, Merckx offered his take on this year’s corsa rosa, including some interesting comments about Alberto Contador’s ongoing doping case.
“I hope that Contador is innocent, because otherwise it would be a disaster,” Merckx told the Italian sports daily. “I don’t know all the details of his case, but his defense of the meat with the clenbuterol doesn’t convince me. We hope he is right in the end.”
Merckx said he believes that increased doping controls and stronger action against would-be cheaters is helping the sport turn the corner.
“I don’t agree that all roads lead to doping. I would remind everyone that there are true athletes, not ladies. This is a true sport, and after all that it’s passed through, still has credibility,” he continued. “The era of suspicion is over. We are back on the right track, not like in the past years. The tunnel is over, we are the sport that makes the most controls. I see a bright future for the sport.”
Merckx went on to call Contador the top favorite for victory, but said it should be a fight down to the wire going into the final week.
“Contador is the most complete rider. I like the way he races because he attacks, not a wheel-sucker, a rider with real class. But it won’t be easy for him. I like Nibali a lot,” Merckx said. “Watch out, too, for Scarponi. He’s not so young (31), but it’s possible that he could win. I see the race very wide open, with Contador in the front row, Nibali the outsider and Kreuziger for the podium.”