Posted by Editoress on 10/29/05
Eddy and Axel Merckx Raise Funds for BC Cancer Foundation in Vancouver
by Gord Ross
Vancouver - Oct 28
The Wedgewood Hotel and the BC Cancer Foundation hosted the exclusive appearance of legendary cyclist Eddy Merckx and his son Axel Merckx on Friday night. Speaking at a press conference, prior to the sold-out Evening of Champions dinner fundraiser, the two Merckx's discussed their personal reasons for being in Vancouver to support the cancer cause and their feelings on the state of pro cycling.
Axel, who spends his off season with his wife Jodi from Kelowna, BC, was flanked by Eddy and his mother-in law, Colleen Cross, a breast cancer survivor. Also joining the two Merckx's was cancer survivor and local cycling supporter and event organizer Philip Meyer of the Wedgewood Hotel, and BC Cancer Foundation President and CEO Mary McNeil.
"After Lance got back on the bike, I came to Texas to ride for cancer to support him," said Eddy. "I thought I should do the same for Colleen."
The sold-out dinner took place at the Vancouver Club on Friday night, where ticket sales, raffles, and auctions of celebrity cycling gear and memorabilia were expected to top $100,000 in funds.
"This is significant," said Mary McNeil of the BC Cancer Foundation. "For an individual to come to us and host this kind of event and for it to raise these kinds of funds, it's a real accomplishment."
Funds from the event will be donated to the BC Cancer Foundation to support breast cancer programs at the BC Cancer Agency in Kelowna and testicular cancer research at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver.
While Axel has spent significant time in BC, it was Eddy's first time in Vancouver. Axel commented on the local and Candian cycling scene in general. "I think here, you have to be so dedicated to excel at the sport. In Belgium, it's easy. You go out on the road, you see 10 clubs riding around. Here, you might see one if any at all. So you really have to be dedicated."
Eddy pointed out how Canadian cyclists in the past that had caught his attention. "Bauer, Fraser: they were good cyclists." Axel made note of his Canadian teammate next year, Ryder Hesjedal. While sports like hockey and baseball continue to dominate, both made mention of the fact that the sport has increased in popularity in North America and attributed to it in large part due to Lance Armstrong and his publicity.
Canadian Cyclist asked the duo about the ProTour and whether they felt the ongoing disagreements between the ProTour and the Grand Tours was damaging cycling, on whether or not format changes should be required by the UCI. Axel responded, "It's too many races. It's too long. We have races to do that are not so important now. The races that have been around for 100 years, they should be in the ProTour, but others.... I raced well into September this year, it's tiring. The ProTour really needs to be shortened after the Tour de France. The second part of the season could be cut in half."
What's the best advice they can give to a young cyclist in Canada wanting to make it big? Axel took the opportunity to pass on the wisdom received by his father, "You must enjoy what you are doing. And while I might not tell them this, but you have to be courageous. It is the hardest sport. They should to go Europe, the schooling there is better. They will learn so much. There are riders here with great potential, great athletic ability, great talent. Lance and others have proved that."
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