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Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx ( ) (born 17 June 1945 in Meensel-Kiezegem, now part of Tielt-Wingemarker, Flemish Brabantmarker L'Equipe, Rider database, Eddie Merckx), better known as Eddy Merckx, is a Belgianmarker former professional cyclist. The French magazine V√©lo called him "the most accomplished rider that cycling has ever known." The American publication, VeloNews, called him the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time. He won the Tour de France five times, won all the classics except Paris-Tours, won the Giro d'Italia five times and the Vuelta a Espa√Īa, won the world championship as an amateur and a professional, and broke the world hour record.

Origins

Eddy Merckx was one of three children born to a couple who ran a grocery in the middle-class area of Sint-Pieters-Woluwemarker. His brother and sister are twins. The family moved to the suburb when he was young. He said:

He acquired his first racing bike, second-hand, when he was eight. His hero was Stan Ockers, who died in a fall on Antwerpmarker track in 1956.

Merckx said:

Racing career

Early career

Merckx rode his first race at Laeken on 16 July 1961,L'√Čquipe, France, 13 March 2007 riding for the Evere Kerkhoek Sportif club. He rode 12 races before winning his first, at Petit-Enghien, on 1 October 1961. The French magazine, V√©lo, said:

Eddy Merckx was a spoiled child of the post-war generation.
Very spoiled, in fact.
To see that, you have only to look at photos of his youth: Eddy dressed as a page boy, as an injured soldier (his sister played the role of nurse), as a cowboy, the Merckx family on winter sports holidays, Eddy and his father's Plymouth car.
So many memories of a happy childhood far, very far, from those of a van Looy or a Coppi.
He was often reproached for it, but was it his fault if God gave him so much?
From his win at Hal [the year after his first victory], he started to live the life of a proper professional.
Félicien Vervaecke, an excellent rider from the 1930s, king of the mountains in the Tours de France of 1935 and 1937, second to Gino Bartali in 1938, drove him to the track at Schaerbeek every Tuesday.
Then Guillaume Michiels, another celebrity, took over.


Merckx moved from the youth to the senior amateur class two months early. At the time, riders had to wait until their 18th birthday. Merckx said:

Patrick Sercu rode with him in newcomers' and junior races on the track at the Palais des Sports in Brussels. Merckx could not beat him on the track but Sercu said that when he saw Merckx on the road he believed he was looking at a future winner of the Tour de France.

Olympic Games and world championship

In 1964, he rode the road race at the 1964 Summer Olympics and finished 12th. In the same year, he became world amateur champion at Sallanchesmarker, France. He said his victory was tainted by the long list of riders who had won the amateur championship and done nothing afterwards. Merckx said of the race:

Turning professional

Merckx at the 1966 World championship


He turned professional on 29 April 1965, after 80 wins as an amateur. He joined Solo-Superia under Rik van Looy. One of the other riders was Jean van Buggenhout, who became his manager. His first win was at Vilvoordemarker on 11 May. He came second to Walter Godefroot in the national championship and was picked for the national team for the world championship near San Sebastianmarker, Spainmarker. The race was won by Tom Simpson. Simpson rode normally for Peugeot and Merckx moved there the following year after nine wins with Solo. There he won the first of seven editions of Milan-San Remo L'Equipe, Cycling Portfolio - Eddy Merckx still aged 20.

In 1967 he repeated his 1966 Milan-San Remo success and also won La Fleche Wallonne. His first grand tour was the 1967 Giro d'Italia, in which he won two stages and finished ninth. Later that year he out-sprinted Jan Janssen and the Spaniard Ramon Saez to become world professional champion at Heerlenmarker, The Netherlandsmarker. Cycling 's reporter, said:

A gamble which paid off won the world professional title for Eddy Merckx, three years after his amateur victory, the quickest 'conversion' in history, and justification of a policy of careful preparation rather than opportunism.
The tall Belgian, who with his countryman Jean Aerts (now a radio commentator) is the only road-man to have done the double, had led the race from the first lap...
So they came to the sprint, which was as clean as one could have hoped, the five men giving one another no mercy, yet sprinting as straight as a die following a lead by the ever-aggressive Jos van der Vleuten, who blotted his copybook by refusing a dope-test after the finish.
Merckx was flanked by Janssen on his left, Saez on his right, two redoubtable sprinters at the end of a long hard race, yet he left them no opportunity of getting by.


Merckx was earning 125,000 Belgian francs a year when he won the championship (approx ‚ā¨2,000 at 2008 values). He didn't buy his first car until he had been a professional for three years.

Move to Italy

At Peugeot, Merckx had had to pay for his wheels and tyres. In 1968 he moved to the Italian Faema team. The Italian coffee machine company had returned to sponsorship, having backed teams led by van Looy and others in the past. He said:
 Faema, however, had no interest in the Tour de France, Merckx said.


Coca-Cola offered Merckx a million Belgian francs to ride in 1968, van Buggenhout urged him to accept, but Merckx refused believing himself not strong enough to ride both the Giro - which was important to Faema- and the Tour - which wasn't.L'√Čquipe, France, 3 July 2003

Merckx won Paris-Roubaix and started his domination of the grands tours by becoming the first Belgian to win the Giro d'Italia in 1968. He did this another four times, equalling the record of five by Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi.

Starting 1969, he won Paris-Nice. In the time trial, he overtook the five-time Tour de France winner, Jacques Anquetil, who for 15 years had been the world's best time-triallist. Merckx won Milan-San Remo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

During the 1969 Giro d'Italia, he was found to have used drugs and was disqualified (See below - Giro d'Italia).

Tour de France

1969 Tour de France

The 1969 Tour de France was the first which Merckx. won, even though he was almost deprived of it by a doctor in Lillemarker who found abnormalities in his heart rhythm Merckx was cleared to start after medical colleagues said the hearts of endurance athletes were often unusual.

The French historian Jean-Paul Ollivier said:
"Faema had become practically a Belgian team through its riders.
The crafty Guillaume Driessens had become directeur sportif and performed a psychological exercise of the highest importance, not hiding from anyone that he intended to construct a monolithic block: everyone for Merckx.",


Faema drew number one in the draw for places in the opening prologue, a time-trial over 10.4 km at Roubaixmarker. Driessens chose Merckx, a decision which surprised because the first rider has no other performances by which to pace his ride. He lost six seconds to Rudi Altig because of a headwind in the outward stretch that dropped for later starters. But he took his first yellow jersey in his home of Woluwe-St-Pierre at the end of a 15.6 km team time trial. In stage two, ending in Maastrichtmarker, Merckx allowed his teammate Julien Stevens to take over the yellow jersey because it is difficult for a favorite to lead the race from the early stages and withstand his rival's attacks for so many days . Merckx reclaimed the lead in stage six on Ballon d'Alsacemarker, in the Vosgesmarker of eastern France where he attacked Roger De Vlaeminck, Altig, Rini Wagtmans and Manuel Galera. Pierre Chany wrote:

At the approach to the Ballon, Merckx came out of the bunch like a bullet...
From the first slopes, he pushed the pace harder and dropped those who'd gone with him, judged a nuisance and of no use.
At the summit, Altig had lost two minutes, the main challengers for victory were at 4m 30s, and Désiré Letort, who was wearing the yellow jersey, was relegated by more than seven minutes.


Velodrome Eddy Merckx at Mourenx.
Named in his honour in 1999.


Merckx won the 17th stage, over four cols from Luchonmarker to Mourenxmarker by eight minutes after riding alone for 140 km. He climbed the col du Tourmaletmarker in a small group including Roger Pingeon and Raymond Poulidor, having dropped Felice Gimondi. On the final bend to the summit, Merckx attacked and opened a few seconds. By the foot of the col d'Aubisquemarker he had more than a minute and by the top eight minutes. He maintained the pace for the remaining 70 km to Mourenx, an industrial town near Paumarker. Antoine Blondin wrote of la plan√®te Merckx. In L'√Čquipe Jacques Goddet wrote simply

He won the general classification (yellow jersey), points classification (green jersey) and the mountains classification. No other rider has achieved this triple in the Tour de France, and only Tony Rominger and Laurent Jalabert have matched it in any grand tour Merckx also won the combination classification and the combativity award. Merckx led the race from stage six to twenty-two. His 17 minute 54 second margin of victory over second-placed Roger Pingeon has never been matched since. It was the first time a Belgian had won the Tour since Sylvère Maes 30 years earlier, and Merckx became a national hero.

1970 Tour de France

In the 1970 Tour de France, Merckx took the yellow jersey in the prologue, thrashing his bike. Jean-Paul Ollivier said:
"At the peak of effort he looks on his bike as though he is fighting an imaginary enemy.
He is a pedaller of violence, but the violence is carefully directed, balanced, transformed into efficient energy.
He already sees himself [est déjà entré dans la peau de] the winner of the Tour."
As the previous year he let the yellow jersey pass to a team-mate, this time Italo Zilioli, taking it back after seven stages at Valenciennes. He won the prologue, in road stages, the final time trial and on Mont Ventouxmarker. There he pushed himself so hard that he collapsed while talking to journalists, saying "No, it's impossible!" He was carried to an ambulance for oxygen. His eight stages equalled the record set in 1930 by Charles Pélissier. He won the mountains classification and finished second in the sprinter's classification. He won by 12m 41s over Joop Zoetemelk.

1971 Tour de France

The only rider of the period to shake Merckx was the Spaniard, Luis Oca√Īa, who lived near Mont-de-Marsanmarker in south-west France. Oca√Īa cared little for Merckx's reputation and attacked him on the Puy-de-D√īmemarker, dropping him but not taking the yellow jersey. Three days later, Oca√Īa attacked when the race reached the Alps. By Orci√®res-Merlette he had taken 8m 41s out of the Belgian. By then resentment had built at the way Merckx was winning everything. Chany wrote that
There was a feeling that it would be good for cycling if he lost.
The title on the front page of Paris-Match was: "Is Merckx going to kill the Tour?" A rider at the Grand Prix du Midi Libre was quoted as saying: "When you know how much Merckx is earning, you sometimes lose the will to make an effort if you're paid in loose change [rabais]." The resentment left Merckx to chase Oca√Īa without help. One rider, Celestino Vercelli, said:

Merckx never let anybody break away.
But that day... we don't know....
The start was on an upgrade and he wasn't that brilliant in the beginning.
Maybe he was still warming up and his adversaries, Luis Oca√Īa, Joaquim Agostinho, Joop Zoetemelk, noticed that and decided to break away immediately.
It cost him dearly because the stage was long and very hard and there were four or five climbs.
He took it badly, because it had never happened to him to be behind and lose so much time.
Usually he was the one who was nine minutes in front the others!


A rest day followed and then a stage from Orci√®res-Merlette to Marseillemarker. It started with 20 km downhill, followed by 280 km along a valley. Merckx and his team attacked from the start, led by Rini Wagtmans, immediately gaining several minutes. But the speed downhill and the heavier braking needed for bends led rims to overheat, melting the glue that held tyres to the rim. It happened to several riders and Merckx lost some of his team-mates as a result. Vercelli said:

Merckx needed to recover the nine minutes he lost and he meant to do so by arriving in the valley with several minutes' lead with a good group of about eight riders.
This way it would have been very difficult for the rest of the peloton behind to catch them in the 280km of the valley.
In the 280km of flat road he personally pulled the group for 250km on his own!
And of course the peloton behind him went very fast.
There were all Merckx's adversaries and they were all interested in catching him.
They all worked together for that.
It was basically Merckx alone against all the others.


Merckx got to Marseille half an hour faster than the fastest expected time. The entire Kas team finished outside the time limit but were reinstated. Only 1,000 spectators were at the finish early enough. Among those too late was the mayor of the city, Gaston Deferre, who decided to see the finish at the last moment but arrived after the riders had left for the showers and the officials for their hotels. He forbade the Tour to return to the city for the rest of his career. It next stopped in Marseille in 1989, three years after his death.

Despite a stage that averaged 45.4kmh, Merckx cut Oca√Īa's lead only to 7m 32s. He waited for the Pyrenees. There, on the col de Mente, hail and rain flooded the road. Pierre Chany said:
...
[Merckx] attacked in a rage several times, out of the saddle and bent over his bars, Oca√Īa in his wake.
He multiplied the attacks, changed from one side of the road to the other ceaselessly to get Oca√Īa off his wheel, but in vain.


Unable to shake off Oca√Īa on the way up, Merckx tried to do so on the way down. The storm broke at the summit. Pierre Chany said:
... worse than a storm, ... a cataclysm.
...
"hail fell, visibility was zero, brakes no longer worked; riders were taking the descent with their feet on the road to slow them."
Merckx missed a bend, hit a low wall and fell. He got up straight away but two spectators had gone to help him. Oca√Īa ran into them, crashed heavily and was hit by Zoetemelk and then two other riders who had been following by a few seconds. The fall put Oca√Īa out of the race and gave the yellow jersey to Merckx, although he declined to wear it next morning in respect for the Spaniard. Merckx won the Tour by 9m 51s over Zoetemelk and 11m 6s over Lucien van Impe. The same year he became world champion again.

1972 Tour de France

In 1972, there was anticipation of a rematch between Merckx and Oca√Īa. The Spaniard insisted that Merckx would never have won but for the crash. Merckx replied:

Merckx won the prologue at Angersmarker but lost the yellow jersey when Cyrille Guimard won the following day at St-Brieuc. Guimard held the lead for seven stages, despite growing knee pain. Merckx won the stage at Luchonmarker on day eight and with it the lead. He kept the yellow jersey to the end, winning the sprint competition and coming second to van Impe in the mountains. The battle with Oca√Īa fizzled out when the Spaniard crashed in the Pyrenees again, falling on the Aubisque, and dropping out with a lung infection on the 15th day.

With four wins, Merckx was approaching Jacques Anquetil's record of five, and the French public was becoming hostile. He had already been whistled at the finish in Vincennes after winning in 1970. For that reason, the Tour organisers asked Merckx not to start in 1973; instead he won the Vuelta a Espana, where he beat Luis Oca√Īa and Bernard Th√©venet, and he won the Giro.

1974 Tour de France

By 1974, "the wear and tear was beginning to show," Merckx acknowledged. Yet he still won the Giro, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France, including its closing stage in Paris, within eight weeks. Far from challenging Merckx, Oca√Īa rode the Vuelta with bronchitis, started the Midi-Libre but dropped out, then broke a bone in the Tour de 'Aude. His sponsor, the pen and lighter company, Bic, fired him.

The novelty of the Tour was its first excursion to Englandmarker, for a criterium up and down an unopened bypass near Plymouthmarker. By the ninth stage, the race looked over. Patrick Sercu had the sprinters' jersey after winning three stages, and Merckx was in yellow. The Dutchman, Gerben Karstens, challenged both by collecting repeated bonuses in the intermediate sprints each day but lost his chance in a war of words as well as wheels when Sercu and Merckx joined forces as rivals against a common enemy. The race then settled in to ride round France in a heatwave. And then, said Chany, came a remarkable attack on the Mont du Chatmarker, above Lac du Bourgetmarker.

Gonzalo Aja had broken away on this very modest second-category climb and Jos Bruyère and Merckx were at the front of the rest of the race as it rode slowly towards the summit, when Louis Caput drove up through the group with a blast on his klaxon.
He drew Poulidor's attention and gestured to him to attack.
Imagine the surprise to see the Limousin, almost 40 years old, obey instantly.
He attacked and, just as surprising, Merckx stayed where he was.
The crowd couldn't believe their eyes, seeing Poulidor riding past them a hundred metres ahead of the maillot jaune.
The contrast of styles showed the contrast of their powers.
The Limousin took the climb as much out of the saddle as in it, his cap askew, without weakening.
The Belgian was back-bent on his bicycle, sweat trickling down his face, pushing heavily on the pedals, losing time and showing his new limits in the mountains.


Poulidor's tentative attack didn't succeed and next day he lost five minutes. But he twice more bettered Merckx in the Pyrenees, at St-Lary and on the Tourmalet. Merckx won the Tour 8m 4s ahead of Poulidor and a further three in front of Vicente Lopez-Carril. It left journalists divided about whether they had seen a remarkable comeback by Poulidor or the first signs of vulnerability in Merckx. Michel Pollentier, "at the price of unbelievable contortions [on his bike]", beat Merckx by 10 seconds in the time trial at Orléansmarker just before Paris.

Victory gave Merckx five wins in the Tour, equalling Anquetil. Over the next 25 years, only Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain were able to equal him. Then Lance Armstrong won the Tour a sixth (2004) and a seventh (2005) time.

1975 Tour de France

Merckx's domination in the grands tours ended in 1975. The race started well - he held the yellow jersey for eight days, raising his total to 96 - but ended in disappointment. L'√Čquipe said:

The millions of television spectators who saw him ride away on the descent of the col d'Allos, on 13 July that year, were persuaded that the Tour was decided.
The Belgian outdistanced all his rivals, first Zoetemelk, then Gimondi and van Impe, finally Thévenet, the last to resist.
At the bottom of the descent, he led by a minute and his rivals seemed resigned.
They had been under his thumb [subissent sa férule] so long that defeat had become, for them, a habit.
But this time there was a climate of open hostility: the public who spat at him; the organisers who hoped secretly that he would lose; the journalists who had run out of stories.
[And then] something never seen happened on the Puy de D√īme, where Th√©venet and Oca√Īa had distanced him by about 20 seconds.
At 150m before the line, a man, a sort of Dupont-Lajoie came out of the crowd and punched Merckx in the kidney, with a blow loaded with hate.
The act of a fanatic, an opponent [mécreant], symptomatic of the anti-Merckxism that reigned.


Thévenet attacked Merckx on the col d'Izoardmarker on 14 July, France's national day. Merckx, who was suffering back pain and from the punch, fought back but lost the lead and never regained it. Pierre Chany wrote:

Those who were there will be slow to forget Bernard Thévenet's six successive attacks in the never-ending climb of the col des Champsmarker, Eddy Merckx's immediate and superb response, the alarming chase by the Frenchman after a puncture delayed him on the descent of the col, the Belgian's attack on the way to the summit of the Allos, his breath-taking plunge towards the Pra-Loup valley, his sudden weakening four kilometres from the top and, to finish, Thévenet's furious push.
The end of the race was frenetic.
Has Eddy Merckx's long reign in the Tour de France come to an end on the Pra-Loupmarker.
Some think so; others believe that it will happen tomorrow.


A British writer, Graeme Fife, wrote:

Thévenet caught Merckx, by now almost delirious, 3km from the finish and rode by.
The pictures show Merckx's face torn with anguish, eyes hollow, body slumped, arms locked shut on the bars, shoulders a clenched ridge of exertion and distress.
Thévenet, mouth gaping to gulp more oxygen, looks pretty well at the limit, too, but his effort is gaining; he's out of the saddle, eyes fixed on the road.
He said he could see that one side of the road had turned to liquid tar in the baking heat and Merckx was tyre-deep in it.


Beside the road, a woman in a bikini waved a sign that said: "Merckx is beaten. The Bastillemarker has fallen." Thévenet had taken the climb on the larger chain-ring. A collision with the Danish rider Ole Ritter broke Merckx's cheekbone. He could not eat solid food and was barely able to talk. During the last stage, he attacked Thévenet but was caught by the peloton. Merckx finished second to Thévenet, second in the mountains and second best sprinter. He said riding the 1975 Tour didn't itself shorten his career, but...

1976 Tour de France

Merckx began 1976 by winning his seventh Milan-San Remo but missed winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen after falling on the Koppenbergmarker and walking to the top because it was too steep to get back in the saddle. A saddle sore still troubled him and his doctor told him not to ride the Tour.

1977 Tour de France

The 1977 Tour was one too many for Merckx. He suffered on the col de la Madeleine and lost 13 seconds to Hennie Kuiper on Alpe d'Huezmarker. Didi Thurau, a 22-year-old German, beat him in the Pyrenees and bettered him by 50 seconds in the time trial. With Géminiani, his manager in the Fiatmarker team, he had agreed to ride a light start to the season with the aim of a sixth win. But having been outridden by both Thurau and Thévenet, he fell ill. Chany wrote:

In the Alps, Dietrich Thurau paid the bill for his inexperience and his incapacity above 1,500m altitude.
He lost the yellow jersey, which passed to Thévenet, in the climb to Avoriaz, where Zoetemelk pulled off a highly athletic performance.
Tenth at two minutes to the Dutchman, Eddy Merckx was suffering a little.
Forty-eight hours later, between Chamonixmarker and the Alpe d'Huez, the Belgian, ill but determined to defend his reputation, suffered a very long Calvary and finished in a highly pronounced fatigue, a quarter of an hour behind the leaders.


By St-√Čtienne, Merckx had risen to sixth place and began talking of riding the Tour again in 1978, "stupifying those who heard him and splitting his team," according to Chany. The 1977 Tour collapsed into a doping scandal when Zoetemelk was found guilty. Rumours abounded about others. Th√©venet won for the second time and four months later said he had succeeded by taking cortisone. Merckx finished sixth, 12m 38s behind. He never did ride in 1978, the year which produced the first victory by Bernard Hinault, the next to win five Tours de France.

Giro d'Italia

Merckx won the Giro d'Italia in 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974. Following his 1968 win, he said he knew he could win the Tour de France. He won 24 Giro stages in his career. His final victory came in a battle with the Italians Gianbattista Baronchelli, who he beat by 12 seconds, and Felice Gimondi, who lost by 33 seconds.

World championship 1974

Merckx at the 1974 world road championship in Montreal.
Merckx also won the world championship in 1974 for the third time, which only Alfredo Binda and Rik van Steenbergen had done before him, and only √ďscar Freire would do after him. Because of his victories in the three most important races of the year, the 1974 Tour de France, the 1974 Giro d'Italia and the 1974 world championship, Merckx won the Triple Crown of Cycling. Since then, only Stephen Roche has been able to do that, in 1987.

Classics victories

Merckx had an impressive list of victories in one-day races, the Classic cycle races, (See Significant victories by race). Among highlights are a record seven victories in Milan-San Remo (absolute record in one classic), two in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, three in Paris-Roubaix, five in Liège-Bastogne-Liège (record), and two in the Giro di Lombardia, a total of 19 victories. He also won the world road championship a record three times in 1967, 1971 and 1974, and every classic except Paris-Tours.

The only rider to have won all the classics is Rik van Looy, Merckx having missed Paris-Tours. A lesser Belgian rider, No√ęl van Tyghem, won Paris-Tours in 1972 and said:

Merckx also won 17 six-day track races, often with Patrick Sercu.

Win rate

In his best year, Merckx won almost every other race he rode. Merckx won the equivalent of a race a week for six years. This table shows his strike rate of wins as a percentage of races undertaken.
  • 1965: 13%
  • 1966: 21%
  • 1967: 23%
  • 1968: 24%
  • 1969: 33%
  • 1970: 37%
  • 1971: 45%
  • 1972: 39%
  • 1973: 37%
  • 1974: 27%
  • 1975: 25%
  • 1976: 13%
  • 1977: 14%
  • 1978: 0%


Hour record



Merckx set the hour record in 1972. On 25 October, after he had raced a full road season winning the Tour, Giro and four classics, Merckx covered 49.431 km at high altitude in Mexico Citymarker. The American writer, Owen Mulholland, wrote:
At 8:56 exactly, Eddy Merckx began his great ride.
A bell was sounded each lap.
If he were on schedule he should be crossing the start line as it sounded.
After the first two laps Eddy was a quarter lap up!
Giogi Albani, who had the job of standing where Merckx actually was when the bell was rung, had a hard time keeping up!
Merckx's first kilometer passed in 1m 10s and five kilometres in 5m 55.7.
Already Eddy was 14 seconds up on Ole Ritter's record to this point.
Onlookers couldn't believe their eyes.
A second five kilometres in 5m 58s obliterated Ritter's 10km time by five seconds.
Ritter's 20km time was eclipsed by 11 seconds.
And remember, Ritter had set his records on a special ride separate from his hour attempt.
Compared to Ritter's hour pace, Merckx was 35s ahead at 20km.
Albani urged Merckx to slow a bit, and he did, dropping to a 6m 7s per 5km pace for the next seven five-kilometre segments.
Around 35km Merckx showed signs of being human.
He fidgeted on his seat and the grimace on his face revealed the superhuman effort he was making.
There was never a question of his taking the record; the only question was by how much.
Far from fading, his last two kilometres were reeled off in 1m 13s and 1m 12s.
Still, he could barely speak when he first dismounted.
Pictures of the moment show his face a mask of pain.
It wasn't long, though, before Eddy regained his normal composure and was able to answer questions.


Merckx said:

The record remained untouched until 1984, when Francesco Moser broke it using a specially designed bicycle and meticulous improvements in streamlining. Over 15 years, various racers improved the record to more than 56 km. However, because of the increasingly exotic design of the bikes and position of the rider, these performances were no longer reasonably comparable to Merckx's achievement. In response, the UCI in 2000 required a "traditional" bike to be used. When time trial specialist Chris Boardman, who had retired from road racing and had prepared himself specifically for beating the record, had another go at Merckx's distance 28 years later, he beat it by slightly more than 10 meters (at sea level).

Records

The other records Merckx set:

  • Most career victories by a professional cyclist: 525.
  • Most victories in one season: 54.
  • Most stage victories in the Tour de France: 34.
  • Most stage victories in one Tour de France: 8, in 1970 and 1974 (shared with Charles P√©lissier in 1930 and Freddy Maertens in 1976).
  • Most days with the yellow jersey in the Tour de France: 96.
  • The only cyclist to have won the yellow, green and red polka-dotted jersey in the same Tour de France (1969).
  • Most victories in classics: 28.
  • Most victories in one single classic: 7 (in Milan-San Remo).
  • Most Grand Tour Victories 11


Track crash

In 1969 Merckx crashed in a derny race in Bloismarker towards the end of the season. A pacer and a cyclist fell in front of Merckx's pacer, Fernand Wambst. Wambst died instantly, and Merckx was knocked unconscious. He cracked a vertebra and twisted his pelvis. He said his riding was never the same after the injuries. He frequently adjusted his saddle while riding - including coming down the col de la Faucille on the way to Divonne-les-Bainsmarker - and was often in pain, especially while climbing. He said:

Doping

Merckx has condemned doping but he tested positive three times. The first time was in the 1969 Giro d'Italia where he tested positive for the stimulant Reactivan at Savonamarker, after leading the race through 16 stages. He was expelled from the Giro. The controversy began to swirl when his test results were not handled in the correct manner, they were released to the press before all parties (Merckx and team officials) involved were notified. Merckx cried in front of reporters, and to this day, protests his innocence. He argued there were no counter-experts nor counter-analysis. He said the stage during which he was allegedly using drugs was easy so there was no need. He said:

"I've never seen sporting opinion so inflamed," wrote Marcel De Leener from Belgium. "Even members of parliament have got themselves involved in the affair; the Opposition has questioned the minister of public health in the Lower Chamber, the Cabinet is in an uproar, the Foreign Minister has questioned his opposite number in Italy. In the streets, in factories, in offices, in public transport, they talk of little else." The Italian federation stuck by its findings but the Belgians refused to agree and it took four hours of debate in Brussels for the professional section of the Union Cycliste Internationale to quash his sentence. The president of the Fédération Internationale du Cyclisme Professional was Félix Lévitan, organiser of the Tour de France. It was diplomacy and, "let us be frank, hypocrisy too", reported Cycling. The hearing praised the Italians and accepted their evidence, however Merckx was cleared to ride the Tour. De Leener said:

If on the one hand they have recognised the skill and competence of the doctors in charge of the controls in the Giro, they also took into account the fact that Eddy Merckx had never been found guilty of this before.
In other words, they judged the affair sentimentally, with their hearts, instead of considering all the dry facts.
If this were not Merckx, would all these artifices have been resorted to?
No, without any shadow of doubt, no."


Prince Albert of Belgium sent a plane to bring him to Belgium.

Merckx was also found positive after winning the Giro di Lombardia in 1973. He had taken Mucantil (Iodinated glycerol). He said in 2007 that he wanted the Union Cycliste Internationale to give him back his victory. He said:

 The World Anti-Doping Agency removed norephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, from the list of banned drugs in 2004.


Then he was caught after taking Stimul in the 1975 Flèche Wallonne. Merckx said:

In 1977 the Belgian doctor, Professor Michel Debackere, perfected a test for pémoline, an amphetamine-like drug, and caught three of the biggest names in Belgium: Merckx, Freddy Maertens and Michel Pollentier.

Because of his doping record, the organisers of the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgartmarker asked Merckx to stay away. The decision was criticized in the press and by the UCI. When he confirms his stance against doping, Merckx points out that cycling is unfairly treated compared to other sports.

In the 1990s, he became a friend of Lance Armstrong and supported him when he was accused of drug use, stating he rather "believed what Lance told him than what appeared in newspapers".

Retirement

Merckx's last victory was a criterium at Kluisbergenmarker on 17 July 1977. His last race was the Omloop van het Waasland, at Kemzekemarker on 19 March 1978. He finished 12th. He had already abandoned the Omloop Het Volk, exhausted. His sponsor, the clothing chain, C&A, had supported his team only after long and difficult negotiationsL'√Čquipe, France, undated cutting and did not intend to continue next season. Merckx told his soigneur, Pierrot De Wit, during their journey home that he had ridden his last race. De Wit argued but Merckx announced his decision at a press conference in Brussels on 18 May 1978. Merckx said:

Having retired, Merckx has a bicycle factory which carries his name. He said:

Merckx is a race commentator on RTBF television. He was coach of the Belgian national cycling team during the mid-90s, and part of the Belgian Olympic Committee. Merckx is still asked to comment as an authority. As such, he was advisor for the Tour of Qatar in 2002. He lives in Meisemarker, Vlaams-Brabantmarker.

Personal life

In December 1967 Merckx married Claudine Acou, a 21-year-old teacher, daughter of Lucien Acou, trainer of the national amateur team. The couple married at the town hall in Anderlechtmarker, a suburb of Brussels. The mayor said: "Sometimes I am envious of cycling champions. When they win, there is always a pretty girl to give them a kiss. For my part, no one kisses me when I have a good win, so I'm going to profit from this occasion by kissing the bride now." The witnesses to the marriage were Merckx's manager, Jean van Buggenhout, and a cabinet-maker from Etterbeekmarker, who taught Merckx to ride a bike. The religious service which followed was in Merckx's local church rather than his bride's. Merckx's mother asked the priest, Father Fabien, to celebrate the ceremony in French, a choice that ended up being a contentious issue in Belgium. The priest said: "You are now started on a tandem race; believe me, it will not be easy." The couple have two children: a daughter (Sabrina) and a son, Axel, who also became a professional cyclist.

In 1996 Albert II of Belgium King of the Belgians, gave him the title of baron. In 2000 he was chosen Belgian "Sports Figure of the Century". In March 2000 he was received by the Pope in the Vaticanmarker.

Merckx is known as a quiet and modest person. Three of his former riders have worked in his bicycle factory and join him during recreational bike tours. When he finished third behind Father Damien and Paul Janssen in the Greatest Belgian contest, after being one of the favourites, he said that Merckx has become an ambassador for the foundation, named after the Catholic priest, which battles leprosy and other diseases in development countries.

Merckx is an art lover. He said:

In May 2004, he had an esophagus operation to cure stomach ache suffered since he was young. He lost almost 30 kg and took up recreational cycling again.

Cultural references

Merckx was celebrated in many ways, including records called Eddy is de Kampioen by De Zanger Zonder Naam, Eddy Neemt de Gele Trui by Frankie, and Eddy Merckx by Cyriel

  • When the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Belgiummarker in 2005, she met Merckx as a cultural representative of Belgium.
  • The Eddy Merckx metro stationmarker on the Brussels metro is named in his honour. It is on the western branch of line 5. It was opened on 15 September 2003. The bike on which he broke the hour record is displayed there.
  • In the comic strip Asterix Merckx makes a cameo as a "fast runner" in the album Asterix in Belgium.
  • In 2000, the Belgian magazine Knack declared him Belgian of the Century and, four years later, the magazine Humo called him the Greatest Belgian.
  • In the mid-seventies Merckx figured in television commercials for cigarettes, for which he was criticized and which he now regrets.
  • Merckx cameoed himself in several movies, of which the 1985 film American Flyers, starring Kevin Costner, is the best known. He was attending the Coors International Bicycle Classic in Colorado and fired the starting pistol in the movie which was being shot in and around the Classic. The fictional race in the film called Hell of the West, was based on the real Coors Classic.


Career accomplishments

Notes

  1. Vélo, France, November 2000
  2. Crazy about Belgium, Cycling Greats. Eddy Merckx
  3. Eddy MERCKX : Biographie de Eddy MERCKX - Monsieur-Biographie.com
  4. Cycling Plus, UK, undated cutting
  5. Vélo, France, October, 2005
  6. Vélo, France, October 2005
  7. The British weekly, Cycling, had only his surname in a report about the 1964 Summer Olympics supplied by a news agency. Needing to add a name, the magazine gambled and referred to him as "Willi Merckx."
  8. Cycling, UK, 9 September 1967, p5
  9. Cycling, UK, 23 September 1967, p19
  10. In 1968 Merckx decided he was not strong enough to ride both the Giro and the Tour, so declined the Tour. The Giro was more important to his team. Merckx has never regretted the decision, not least because that year's race - the "Tour of Health" as it was billed after the death of Tom Simpson the previous year - turned into a slow procession which led the organiser, Félix Lévitan, to accuse journalists who complained of reporting "with tired eyes", after which the journalists went on strike. The 1968 race was ridden by national rather than trade teams, which explains why Faema was less interested.
  11. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p14
  12. Chany, Pierre (1988), La Fabuleuse Histoire de Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p592
  13. The "Eddy Merckx" velodrome at Mourenx was named in his honour on the 30th anniversary of his first Tour de France victory in 1969. Merckx was present for the ceremony.
  14. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p17
  15. Tony Rominger (1993) and Laurent Jalabert (1995) have won all 3 jerseys in the Vuelta a Espa√Īa
  16. L'√Čquipe, France, 10 July 1970
  17. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p610
  18. BikeRaceInfo Oral History - Celestino Vercelli
  19. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p616
  20. Gaston Deferre was mayor of the city of Marseille for more than 30 years. He was repeatedly linked to dubious business ventures and to the Mafia. The city became Europe's biggest drug-provider in the two decades after the war, culminating in the so-called French Connection. In 1983 he managed to be re-elected with fewer votes than his opponent, having changed the city's voting rules while also minister of the interior.
  21. Eurosport, Cyclisme, One day in the Tour.
  22. Augendre, Jacques (1986), Le Tour de France, Panorama d'un Siècle, Société du Tour de France, France, p64
  23. Memoire du Cyclisme 1972 Tour de France
  24. Procycling, UK, May 2000
  25. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p639
  26. The Oca√Īa episode ended Bic's sponsorship. The team wasn't pleased that he had raced when he was ill, nor to read in the papers rather than hear from Oca√Īa that he wouldn't ride the Tour. On the other hand, Oca√Īa had complained publicly that he had not been paid. The Baron Marcel Bich, owner of Bic, said the money had left him. When he heard that it hadn't reached Oca√Īa, he dropped out of professional cycling. See Rapha√ęl G√©miniani.
  27. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p21
  28. Gonzalo Aja finished fifth overall in the 1974 Tour de France
  29. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p642
  30. Augendre, Jacques (1986), Le Tour de France, Panorama d'un Siècle, Société du Tour de France, France, p67
  31. Dupont Lajoie was a French film, made by Yves Boisset, in that same year, 1975. It is a tale of jealousy, violence and revenge. See Wikipedia France - Dupont Lajoie for details.
  32. L'√Čquipe, France, 30 June 2004
  33. Chany, Pierre, L'√Čquipe, France, 1975, cited L'√Čquipe Magazine 16 July 2005
  34. Fife, Graeme (1999), Tour de France, Mainstream, UK, p45
  35. Cycle Sport, UK, May 2000
  36. Memoire du Cyclisme - Eddy Merckx (6)
  37. Le Net du Cyclisme - 1976
  38. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p664
  39. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p666
  40. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p672
  41. wedstrijdfichestatscdet.php?wedstrijdid=1102&landid=17 Cykelsiderne. Database. Sejre/Etaper pr. land Paris - Tours Belgien
  42. Bike Race Info - Merckx Hour record
  43. Cycling Revealed, Timeline, 1969, 52nd Giro d'Italia 1969 By Barry Boyce, Merckx DQ'd
  44. Cycling, UK, 14 June 1969, p21
  45. Cycling, UK, 21 June 1969, p14
  46. Encyclopedia.com Iodinated glycerol
  47. MedLibrary, Doping at the Tour de France, Steroids and allied drugs
  48. website of Eddy Merckx bicycle factory
  49. Cycling, UK, 16 December 1967, p22
  50. Lucien Acou at Dutch Wikipedia
  51. Brussels is a largely French-speaking enclave in the Dutch-speaking, northern half of Belgium. History, changes in regional prosperity and different attitudes have long separated Belgium more than geographically. Merckx, who is bilingual, was born in one of the few regions of Brussels in which both languages were spoken but more Dutch than French. He then lived in one in which the languages were reversed His command of both languages and his residence in Brussels meant both communities claimed him. Even his name confuses the situation. Merckx, with its consonants, is a Dutch-sounding name. The contraction of Edouard to Eddy is French-speaking. Had he been a pure Fleming, it would probably have been shortened to Ward. Merckx has always resisted saying if he feels aligned to one community more than another. He finished high in both the Flemish (3rd) and Walloon (4th) editions of the Greatest Belgian contest in 2005.
  52. "The singer with no name"; Superstar Records 101
  53. Eddy takes the yellow jersey, Monopole S.028
  54. Life Records, 10,010
  55. "Duo interview Tom Boonen - Eddy Merckx", Gazet van Antwerpen, 3 February 2007


References

  1. Vélo, France, November 2000
  2. Crazy about Belgium, Cycling Greats. Eddy Merckx
  3. Eddy MERCKX : Biographie de Eddy MERCKX - Monsieur-Biographie.com
  4. Cycling Plus, UK, undated cutting
  5. Vélo, France, October, 2005
  6. Vélo, France, October 2005
  7. The British weekly, Cycling, had only his surname in a report about the 1964 Summer Olympics supplied by a news agency. Needing to add a name, the magazine gambled and referred to him as "Willi Merckx."
  8. Cycling, UK, 9 September 1967, p5
  9. Cycling, UK, 23 September 1967, p19
  10. In 1968 Merckx decided he was not strong enough to ride both the Giro and the Tour, so declined the Tour. The Giro was more important to his team. Merckx has never regretted the decision, not least because that year's race - the "Tour of Health" as it was billed after the death of Tom Simpson the previous year - turned into a slow procession which led the organiser, Félix Lévitan, to accuse journalists who complained of reporting "with tired eyes", after which the journalists went on strike. The 1968 race was ridden by national rather than trade teams, which explains why Faema was less interested.
  11. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p14
  12. Chany, Pierre (1988), La Fabuleuse Histoire de Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p592
  13. The "Eddy Merckx" velodrome at Mourenx was named in his honour on the 30th anniversary of his first Tour de France victory in 1969. Merckx was present for the ceremony.
  14. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p17
  15. Tony Rominger (1993) and Laurent Jalabert (1995) have won all 3 jerseys in the Vuelta a Espa√Īa
  16. L'√Čquipe, France, 10 July 1970
  17. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p610
  18. BikeRaceInfo Oral History - Celestino Vercelli
  19. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p616
  20. Gaston Deferre was mayor of the city of Marseille for more than 30 years. He was repeatedly linked to dubious business ventures and to the Mafia. The city became Europe's biggest drug-provider in the two decades after the war, culminating in the so-called French Connection. In 1983 he managed to be re-elected with fewer votes than his opponent, having changed the city's voting rules while also minister of the interior.
  21. Eurosport, Cyclisme, One day in the Tour.
  22. Augendre, Jacques (1986), Le Tour de France, Panorama d'un Siècle, Société du Tour de France, France, p64
  23. Memoire du Cyclisme 1972 Tour de France
  24. Procycling, UK, May 2000
  25. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p639
  26. The Oca√Īa episode ended Bic's sponsorship. The team wasn't pleased that he had raced when he was ill, nor to read in the papers rather than hear from Oca√Īa that he wouldn't ride the Tour. On the other hand, Oca√Īa had complained publicly that he had not been paid. The Baron Marcel Bich, owner of Bic, said the money had left him. When he heard that it hadn't reached Oca√Īa, he dropped out of professional cycling. See Rapha√ęl G√©miniani.
  27. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p21
  28. Gonzalo Aja finished fifth overall in the 1974 Tour de France
  29. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p642
  30. Augendre, Jacques (1986), Le Tour de France, Panorama d'un Siècle, Société du Tour de France, France, p67
  31. Dupont Lajoie was a French film, made by Yves Boisset, in that same year, 1975. It is a tale of jealousy, violence and revenge. See Wikipedia France - Dupont Lajoie for details.
  32. L'√Čquipe, France, 30 June 2004
  33. Chany, Pierre, L'√Čquipe, France, 1975, cited L'√Čquipe Magazine 16 July 2005
  34. Fife, Graeme (1999), Tour de France, Mainstream, UK, p45
  35. Cycle Sport, UK, May 2000
  36. Memoire du Cyclisme - Eddy Merckx (6)
  37. Le Net du Cyclisme - 1976
  38. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p664
  39. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p666
  40. Chany, Pierre (1997), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p672
  41. wedstrijdfichestatscdet.php?wedstrijdid=1102&landid=17 Cykelsiderne. Database. Sejre/Etaper pr. land Paris - Tours Belgien
  42. Bike Race Info - Merckx Hour record
  43. Cycling Revealed, Timeline, 1969, 52nd Giro d'Italia 1969 By Barry Boyce, Merckx DQ'd
  44. Cycling, UK, 14 June 1969, p21
  45. Cycling, UK, 21 June 1969, p14
  46. Encyclopedia.com Iodinated glycerol
  47. MedLibrary, Doping at the Tour de France, Steroids and allied drugs
  48. website of Eddy Merckx bicycle factory
  49. Cycling, UK, 16 December 1967, p22
  50. Lucien Acou at Dutch Wikipedia
  51. Brussels is a largely French-speaking enclave in the Dutch-speaking, northern half of Belgium. History, changes in regional prosperity and different attitudes have long separated Belgium more than geographically. Merckx, who is bilingual, was born in one of the few regions of Brussels in which both languages were spoken but more Dutch than French. He then lived in one in which the languages were reversed His command of both languages and his residence in Brussels meant both communities claimed him. Even his name confuses the situation. Merckx, with its consonants, is a Dutch-sounding name. The contraction of Edouard to Eddy is French-speaking. Had he been a pure Fleming, it would probably have been shortened to Ward. Merckx has always resisted saying if he feels aligned to one community more than another. He finished high in both the Flemish (3rd) and Walloon (4th) editions of the Greatest Belgian contest in 2005.
  52. "The singer with no name"; Superstar Records 101
  53. Eddy takes the yellow jersey, Monopole S.028
  54. Life Records, 10,010
  55. "Duo interview Tom Boonen - Eddy Merckx", Gazet van Antwerpen, 3 February 2007

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