ATHENS, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Axel Merckx will probably never emerge fully from the long shadow cast by his father but he went some way to leaving his
mark on cycling history by winning an Olympic bronze medal on Saturday.
Merckx, son of five-times Tour de France winner Eddy, made the podium in the men's road race in Athens behind Italy's Paolo Bettini and Portugal's
Sergio Paulinho to claim the biggest prize of his career.
It might not rival dad's achievements, but it will look good on the mantlepiece of his house in Monaco.
"I never compete against my dad," the tall blond-haired Belgian told a news conference afterwards.
"This is my race. Everyone in this room knows who he is but I'm not trying to compete with his career. This is one of the top moments of my own
Merckx struggled under the weight of his surname early in his career and his father, perhaps sensing how difficult it would be for his son to follow
in his footsteps, was not altogether encouraging of Axel's ambitions.
But Axel persisted, claiming a couple of podium finishes in one-day races in Spain and Italy in the late 1990s to suggest he had inherited at least
some of Eddy's talent.
He started his career in the Motorola team alongside Lance Armstrong, the man who just last month finally eclipsed Eddy's jointly held record of five
He finished 12th in the Olympic road race in Sydney in 2000 and in the same year won the Belgian national championship, a feat which his father said
gave him more pleasure than any of his own.
Eddy Merckx never rode at the Olympics as in his day cycling professionals were barred from the Games.
At 1.93 metres, Merckx has sometimes struggled with his height -- he towered over both Bettini and Paulinho on Saturday despite standing on the lowest
step of the Olympic podium.
But his achievement in giving Belgium its 12th Olympic road racing medal means that Axel, like his father, can walk tall.