Eddy Merckx-the Sphinx
St. Peter was showing a “recent arrival” around heaven when a rider, on the finest bicycle imaginable, rides by and appears to be the great Eddy Merckx. The recently deceased cyclist says to St. Peter, “I didn’t know that the “Cannibal” had died.” St. Peter responds, “That’s not Eddy Merckx. Sometimes God just pretends that He is Eddy Merckx.”
Eddy, I never knew you!
You can't be real. You were a super hero. You only live and lived in magazines, books, newspapers, and such.
People still come to you as if you were the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, the hanging gardens of Babylon, Machu Picchu, or any wonder of the world.
You were the Cannibal!
You gobbled up victory after victory. You were never satisfied. You wanted to win it all.
Fair enough- if you’re going to show up for a duel, you may as well try to out-duel your opponents.
Five Tours de France, five Giri d’Italia, and three world road championships are among your exploits.In 1974 you only (only) entered 140 races (still only 365 days in a year). You won 38 of them. That is a 27% average. That’s pretty darn good. When one considers that maybe a hundred people are trying to win the same races that you are, it’s phenomenal. In this magical year you also pulled off the hat-trick and won the big three. All in this one year you won the Tour de France, the Giro, and the world championship.
How is this possible for a man who walks as flesh and blood among us?
You won seven Milan-San Remos. You won two Tours of Flanders. You won three Paris-Roubaix. You won five Liege-Bastogne-Lieges. You won two Amstel Gold Races.
Along with setting the hour record in 1972, you also won the Tour de France, the Giro, five major classics and 43 other races.
You’ve won three Ghent-Wevelgems, three Fleche Wallonnes, three Paris-Nices, three Barracchis, six Montjuich Hill Climbs, and more.
Your strength and endurance are legendary. You had no weaknesses. You could time-trial. You could climb. You could, indeed, sprint.
You won eight stage victories in a single Tour de France. It’s a record. You did it twice in 1970 and 1974. You won six in 69 and again in 72.
You also won the polka dot jersey as king of the mountains in 69 and 70.
You won the “Tour” overall and on points, the yellow jersey and the green jersey, three times, 1969, 1971, and 1972.
You hold the record for most days in the yellow jersey of the “Tour”, 96 times.
You hold the record for most days in the Giro’s pink jersey, 78 times.
You are the only rider to win the Tour and Giro three times.
You did all this against some of the greatest cycling heroes the world has ever seen. You out-rode Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocana, Raymond Poulidor, Bernard Thevenet, Rik Van Looy, and Joop Zoetemelk.
Joop Zoetemelk was an incredible cyclist but said this about Eddy Merckx: “In those days, the big names didn’t ride to win. First there was Merckx, and then another classification began after him.”
This was an incredible athlete praising an athlete of another world.
In 1585 races as a pro, Merckx won 445. This is almost a third. In 1969 he won exactly 33.3 percent. In 1970, he won almost 38 percent. In 1971 he won 45 percent.
How is this possible? They saw him coming. Then they saw him going.
A single stage of the Tour is said to be the equivalent of a marathon. The Tour averaged 21 stages when Eddy raced. He only rode seven Tours. He won five. He won the most stage wins, 35.
In 1975, Merckx raced 151 races and won 38. Besides the Tour de France, where he finished second, he raced Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, the Tour de Suisse, Milan-San Remo, and all the other spring classics – over 200 days of racing in all, including six-day track races in Grenoble, Antwerp, and Ghent.
Put the miles together and you go beyond the moon.
You, Eddy Merckx, were known as the cannibal for your insatiable desire for victory.
You were also known as the Sphinx!
You didn’t change your expression. Neither the glow of victory nor the disappointment of defeat left their mark on your face. Your expression was that of the Sphinx. Everyone recognized Eddy Merckx. No one knew him. You even said, “No one really knows me.”
“He would never let his personality show, probably out of a fear that it would mean he may reveal his weak points. He simply could not allow anyone to know if something was wrong with him.”
Eddy Merckx was not the most expansive rider in the peloton. He always kept his cards close to his chest. If someone tried to knock at the door to see into his personality he would be willing and pleasant enough about opening it, but it would usually be left only slightly ajar. The few who were allowed to enter had to concede that it was a bare room in which there were several doors from which he could soon be let out.
You protected your soul in the same way an oyster protects its pearl.
Eddy Merckx- History
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