It has been revealed that five times Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx has undergone what he describes as minor heart surgery in Brussels after suffering chest pains and reportedly collapsing last weekend.
The 69-year-old, who during a glittering career spanning the mid-1960s to mid-1970s won all three Grand Tours and five Monuments - many of them multiple times - plus the world championship three times, confirmed to sports broadcaster Sporza that he had undergone the procedure at the Jette university hospital in Brussels.
Merckx, who had a pacemaker fitted last year to correct an irregular heartbeat, described it as a “minor procedure” aimed at preventing the development of a combination of cardiac arrhythmias and blood clots.” He added that he hoped to return home soon.
Sporza says that ahead of his admission to hospital earlier this weekend, Merckx had ridden his bike for 70km on Saturday and 80km on Sunday, adding that last week he also took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Anthony Vanden Borre, who plays football for Anderlecht – the team Merckx supports – did the honours, as you can see in this video, and the cycling champion in turn nominated his son Axel and former world champion Philippe Gilbert to have a bucket of freezing water poured over their heads, too.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.