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GHENT, Belgium (VN) — No gifts, not even to loyal teammates.
Speaking to Belgian media, Merckx said Van Aert was the strongest, and should have taken the victory instead of playing kingmaker.
“It’s his choice to let a teammate win, but I wouldn’t have done it,” said Merckx, who actually bet 1,000 euros that Laporte would win.
“Of course I don’t know what’s going on within the team,” Merckx told Sporza. “Wout van Aert was by far the best, you saw that on the Kemmelberg. He could write history by winning Harelbeke, Wevelgem, and the Tour of Flanders.”
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Van Aert decided to race Gent-Wevelgem in one last intense session ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
He smashed up the Kemmelberg, and dropped everyone except teammate Laporte. The pair rode together to the line, and Van Aert was generous in allowing his hard-working teammate take the prestigious victory.
Boonen on Van Aert’s gesture: ‘Wout will regret it’
Boonen, who won Gent-Wevelgem three times, said Van Aert will regret it.
“I have also helped teammates to the win, but never in such a situation,” Boonen said.
“You help teammates to let them fight for the win. This again looked good for the team’s marketing, but I don’t know if I would have done it.”
Boonen said the prestige and important of Gent-Wevelgem outweighs any sense of loyalty to teammates or to sponsors.
“Jumbo scores, but Gent-Wevelgem is Gent-Wevelgem. That race is a nice addition to your list of honors. It is more than a ride in Paris-Nice,” Boonen said.
“Do you want to win like this?” he said. “I would have sprinted for it. Such a sprint would have looked strange, but it was the fairest.
“Wout is going to regret it,” Boonen said.
“Riders come and go. Christophe Laporte will probably become the key figure for Wout in Flanders and Roubaix, but that is not a guarantee.
“Suppose you have a hard fall after 5km on Sunday [at Flanders], then you will regret it very much.”