It’s not just the results that give to him the greatest cyclist definition of all times, but also his extraordinary abilities of athletics complete and strong on all terrains. The Belgian has won many races for detachment, “has sprinted” the best sprinters of his time, in the mountains he found only occasional opponents and on the “big climbs” he built the most prestigious victories, he was also a great deceiver, a formidable cronoman and a exceptional “passista”. Journalists of the time wrote that Merckx had exhausted the superlative adjectives.
Eddy Merckx was born in Belgium at Meensel Kiezegem, near Brussels, in the province of Brabant on June 17, 1945.
In light of the results achieved during his sports career, nobody can object to be Eddie the best cyclist of all time.
Merckx counts 525 wins on 1800 raced races: 30%, an impressive percentage and distributed over 17 years of agonism. How to say that for 1/4 races, the opponents played for the second place!
Merckx debuted his first race on July 16, 1961, and the following year he soon became the National Champion of the debutants: in addition to the 23 victories he was allowed to move to the top class.
In 1963 he won 28 races, and in 1964 he became a amateurs World Champion. He is 20 years old and is the first of a long series of bicycle riding victories.
In 1968 the big stages became an hunting ground: he prevails his first Giro d’Italia, in a season full of 32 successes, among which is the most fascinating race in the world: Paris-Roubaix. The following year, the winning races are 43, among them another Milan-Sanremo, and the two most important Belgian classics: The Fiandre (with 70 km of lonely escape and over 5 minutes of advantage on the second) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The 1970s are even brighter: Merckx won the Giro and the Tour (in two months). Merckx, in fact, won eight stages and drags his team to win the chronosquare. Between the two major races he triumphed in the national championship, while in the spring he was successful in Paris-Roubaix, in the Freccia Vallone and in the Gand-Wevelgem. In total 52 wins. They become 54 in 1971: the World Championship in Mendrisio, Milano-Sanremo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro of Lombardy, the Tour of Belgium Other Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Giro of Delfinato, Het Volk and Henninger Turm.
The presence of Merckx was synonymous of assault racing, running for the top. All this meant that Merckx, in addition to the many victories, was often placed among the very first in races he could not win. A guarantee of outcome and a concern for the opponents.
1972 is the year of the second Giro-Tour coupled, another Milan-Sanremo, still Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Freccia Vallone, Giro of Lombardy. Total of 50 victories. And at the end of the year, still unhappy, he flies to Mexico City and at the Velodrome track he gets in a single test the hour’s record, and the new 10 and 20 kilometers primates.
In 1973, 51 wins for Merckx: Tour of Spain and the Giro d’Italia, with 12 stages wins, in addition to Gand-Wevelgem, the Amstel Gold Race, another Paris-Roubaix, another Liege-Bastogne -Liegi, and Paris-Brussels.
Three exceptional months characterize 1974: from May 16th to August 25th he will win the Giro d’Italia (with two stages), the Tour of Switzerland (3 stages), the Tour de France (8 stages) and still be Champion of the World in Montreal. Awesome and unrepeatable.
1975 is the year Eddie Merckx going trought the avenue of sunset … and is satisfied with 38 wins, including the sixth Milan-Sanremo, the second Amstel Gold Race, another Fiandre Tour and the fifth Liege-Bastogne -Liège.
In 1976 only 15 victories, but another Milan-Sanremo (7 out of nine participations: impossible for any other), and in 1977, 17 minor achievements. It decides to retires in March 1978.
In addition to winning road racing from February to October, Merckx did not get tired even in the winter when it ran in velodromes.
There are 98 his wins on the track, among them the European Champion titles and National Champion of various specialties and 17 Six Days (the most important, Grenoble, Milan, Monaco, Berlin, Zurich, Ghent).
….. They will call him “The Cannibal”.
cover image credit to Werner Muller.