He was one of the greatest riders to ever come out of Belgium. Freddy Maertens won two world championships, the Vuelta a España, 16 Tour de France stages, three green jerseys and countless other races.
He also won two editions of Gent-Wevelgem, plus Paris-Tours, Paris-Brussels, Scheldeprijs and took podium finishes in the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix.
Along with Eddy Merckx, he was one of the strongest riders in the 1970s, and likely would have won even more had he not come up against the Cannibal.
Four decades on, Maertens sees the country with a much smaller influence in the bunch. Sure, Tom Boonen is one of the best Classic riders of his generation and both Sep Vanmarcke and Greg Van Avermaet are banging on the door. However the number of contenders from that country has dropped considerably. Vanmarcke and others will try to turn that around in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, but that is far from certain.
For Maertens, the problem is a lack of dedication. “In Belgium, I am sorry but I don’t see much riders,” he said in a video interview with CyclingTips. “A lot of them who are first, second year professionals are good, but then they have to make it.
“I think they don’t do things as a professional rider. More so the training.”
In the video above, he talks about the problem affecting Belgian cycling, giving a cutting example to illustrate this, and contrasts that with his own humble beginnings in the sport.