Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx

Infobox Cyclist
ridername = Eddy Merckx

image_caption = Merckx at the 1966 World Championships
fullname = Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx
nickname = The Cannibal
dateofbirth = birth date and age|1945|6|17
country = BEL
currentteam = Retired
discipline = Road and track
role = Rider
ridertype = All-rounder
amateuryears =
amateurteams =
proyears = 1966–1967
proteams = Peugeot-BP
majorwins = , 5 overall, 34 stage wins
: KoM classification (1969, 1970): Points classification (1969, 1971, 1972): Combativity award (1969, 1970, 1974), 5 overall, 24 stage wins
: KoM classification (1968): Points classification (1968, 1973), 1 overall, 6 stage wins
: Points classification (1973): Combined classification (1973), 7 wins
updated = 30 July 2008
medaltemplates =

Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx (IPA2|'merks) (born 17 June 1945 in Meensel-Kiezegem, Vlaams Brabant, Belgium), known as Eddy Merckx, is a former Belgian professional cyclist. Merckx, regarded as the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time, [cite web
title = Happy Birthday, Eddy!
author = Velonews.com
date = 2005-06-17
url = http://velonews.com/article/8224
accessdate = 2008-06-13
] established several world cycling records, some of which remain unbroken to this day. Merckx was nicknamed "the cannibal" because he wanted to win every race he participated in, never "arranging" a race with another competitor. Other nicknames were "the Einstein of the two-wheelers", and, courtesy of Jacques Goddet, "Le Géant" (The Giant).

Racing career

Early successes in stage racing and single day races

Merckx started competing in 1961. In 1964, he was selected for the road race at the 1964 Summer Olympics, and finished 12th place. In the same year, he became world champion in the amateur category, before turning professional in 1965 with the Peugeot cycling team. In 1966 he won the first of seven editions of Milan-San Remo. He started his first grand tour at the 1967 Giro d'Italia. He won his first stage here and finished seventh overall. Later that year he outsprinted Jan Janssen to become world champion in the professional category in Heerlen, The Netherlands.

Grand tour success

In 1968 with the rainbow jersey on his back and a change to the Italian Faema team, Merckx went on to win Paris-Roubaix for the first time and started his domination of the Grand Tours by becoming the first Belgian to win the "Giro d'Italia" in 1968. [Cite book|last=Thonon|first=Pierre|title=Eddy Merckx du maillot arc en ciel au maillot jaune|publisher=De Schorpioen|date=1970] He would repeat this four times, equalling Alfredo Binda's and Fausto Coppi's record of five victories.

Starting the 1969 season, he won Paris-Nice stage race. In the time trial, he overtook the five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil who over the previous 15 years had been the master of that discipline. Merckx went on to win Milan-Sanremo and Ronde van Vlaanderen several weeks later.During the 1969 Giro d'Italia, he was found to have used drugs and was subsequently disqualified. He cried in front of the reporters, and to this day, protests his innocence. He argued that there were no counter-experts nor counter-analysis and that foreign supporters hated him. Further, he stated that the stage during which he was allegedly using drugs was an easy one, so there was no need to use drugs. The Belgian prince sent a plane to bring him to Belgium.

In his "Tour de France" debut in 1969, Merckx immediately won the yellow jersey (overall leader), the green jersey (best sprinter) and the red polka-dotted jersey ("King of the Mountains" - best climber in the mountain stages). No other cyclist has achieved this triple in the "Tour de France", and only Tony Rominger and Laurent Jalabert have been able to match this feat at the Grand Tour level, in the 1993 and 1995 "Vueltas", respectively. If the young riders' white jersey (for best rider in the Tour under 25 years of age) had existed at that time, Merckx would have won that as well, as he had only just turned 24. It was the first time a Belgian had won the Tour de France since Sylvère Maes 30 years earlier, and Merckx became a national hero.1969 also featured the blackest day in Merckx's career, when he crashed in a derny race towards the end of the season. A pacer and a cyclist fell in front of Merckx's pacer, Fernand Wambst. Wambst was killed instantly, and Merckx was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion. This accident cracked a vertebra and twisted his pelvis. He admitted in interviews that, because of his injuries, his riding was never the same. He would frequently adjust his saddle while riding and would always be in pain, especially while climbing.

In the 1970 Tour de France, Merckx was the clear winner again, although not without difficulties. While climbing Mont Ventoux in 1970 to a stage win, he pushed himself so hard that oxygen had to be administered. In that Tour, Merckx won 8 stages, equalling the record of 1930 by Charles Pélissier. [cite web|url=http://www.cyclinghalloffame.com/races/results/results_tour_de_france.txt|title=Historical results - Tour de France|publisher=Cycling hall of fame] In that Tour, he again won the mountains classification and finished second in the sprinter's classification.

The greatest challenge to Merckx was in the 1971 Tour de France. Luis Ocaña attacked and won the maillot jaune by several minutes. Ocaña held his lead until a crash forced him to withdraw, and Merckx could win the Tour again. The same year he also became world champion again.In 1972, there was much anticipation of a rematch between Merckx and Ocaña. Before that could happen, Merckx had a battle with Jose Manuel Fuente in the 1972 Giro d'Italia in which Merckx beat the climber in the mountain stages. In the 1972 edition of the tour Ocaña became sick and withdrew and the duel did not materialize. [Cite book|author=Eddy Merckx and Marc Jeuniau|title=Plus d'un Tour dans mon sac; mes carnets de route 1972|publisher=Editions arts et voyages Gamma diffusion|date=1972]

At that moment, with four victories he was approaching Jacques Anquetil's record of five victories, and the French public was becoming hostile. For that reason, the Tour direction requested Merckx not to start in the 1973 Tour de France; instead Merckx participated in and won the 1973 Vuelta a Espana, where he beat Luis Ocaña and Bernard Thévenet, and the 1973 Giro d'Italia.

In 1974, Merckx started in the Tour de France again, which he also won, thereby equalling Jacques Anquetil. Over the next 25 years, only Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain were able to equal the five victories. Then Lance Armstrong won the Tour a sixth (2004) and a seventh (2005) time. Merckx still holds the records for stage wins (34) and number of days in the Yellow Jersey (96).

Merckx's final victory in the Giro d'Italia in the 1974 edition was a tight battle between Merckx and two Italians. In the end, Merckx won by 12 seconds over Gianbattista Baronchelli and 33 seconds over Felice Gimondi. [cite book|last=van Walleghem|first=Rik|title=Eddy Merckx:the greatest cyclist of the 20th century|publisher=Pinguin Productions|date=1993|id=ISBN 1884737722] 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 Óscar 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.

Merckx's domination in the Grand Tours came to an end in 1975. That year, he attempted to win his sixth Tour de France but became a victim of violence. Many Frenchmen were upset that a Belgian might beat the record five wins set by Jacques Anquetil. Merckx held the yellow jersey for eight days, which raised his record to 96 days, but whilst he was climbing the Puy de Dôme on stage 14, a French spectator punched him in the body. A later collision with the Danish rider Ole Ritter broke his jaw. Although he could not eat solid food and was barely able to talk, Merckx did not retire. During the last stage, he attacked leader Bernard Thevenet (but was caught by the peloton). Still Merckx finished that tour at the second place in the overall classification, the second place in the mountains classification and the second place in the sprinter's classification.

In 1976, Merckx did not enter the Tour. In the 1977 Tour de France, Merckx finished 6th. He retired from racing in 1978, at the age of 33.

Classics Victories

In addition to Grand Tour successes, Merckx has an impressive list of victories in one-day races (for a comprehensive list, see lower down). Among the highlights are a record of seven victories in Milan-Sanremo (absolute record of victories in one single classic race), two victories in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, three wins in Paris-Roubaix, five in Liège-Bastogne-Liège (record), and two in the Giro di Lombardia, a total of 19 victories in the "Monument" Classics. He also won the "World Road Racing Championship" a record three times in 1967, 1971 and 1974, and every Classic except Paris-Tours. Finally, he won 17 "six-day" track races, often with Patrick Sercu.


The following are records that Merckx set during his career.

* 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 Pélissier 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 the Classic cycle races: 28.
* Most victories in one single Classic cycle race: 7 (in Milan-Sanremo).

Hour record

Merckx also 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 City. The record remained untouched until 1984, when Francesco Moser broke it using a specially designed bicycle and meticulous improvements in streamlining. Over the next 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).

After retirement

Having retired, Merckx has a bicycle factory [ [http://www.eddymerckx.be website of Eddy Merckx bicycle factory] ] and is a race commentator. 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 on cycling. As such, he has also figured as special advisor for the recent UCI addition "Tour of Qatar" since 2002.

In May 2004, he underwent an esophagus operation to cure the constant stomach ache which he suffered since he was a young man. He lost almost 30 kg in the process, and took up recreational cycling again.

Personal life

In 1967 Merckx married Claudine Acou. Merckx's mother asked the priest to celebrate the ceremony in French, a choice that ended up being a contentious issue in Belgium. They had two children: a daughter (Sabrina) and a son (Axel, who also became a professional cyclist).

Despite this early incident, Merckx may be considered a perfect ambassador to Belgium ("i.e." not leaning towards Flanders or Wallonia, but supporting the unity of the country). This, with his achievements, pushed him to high rankings in both the Flemish (3rd) and Walloon (4th) editions of the Greatest Belgian contest, held in 2005.

In 1996 King of the Belgians gave him the lifelong title of baron. In 2000 he was chosen Belgian "Sports Figure of the Century".

Merckx is known as a quiet and modest person. Many of his former helpers have worked in his bicycle factory and join him during recreational bike tours. When he ended up in 3rd place behind Father Damien and Paul Janssen in the Greatest Belgian contest, after being named as one of the favourites, he stated that he "...would have been outright ashamed to have ended up in front of Damien." "Eddy Merckx ambassador of the Father Damien foundation", "Gazet van Antwerpen", 19 January 2008] Since then, Merckx has actually become special ambassador for the foundation, named after the Catholic priest, which battles leprosy and other diseases in development countries.

Merckx has condemned doping, but as mentioned he also tested positive three times in his career. For this very fact, the organization of the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart explicitly included Merckx in a list of people who would not be welcome at the event. The decision caused quite a row and was criticized in the press and by the UCI. [cite web
title = Eddy Merckx joins list of unwelcome people in Stuttgart
author = Cyclingnews.com
date = 2007-09-26
url = http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2007/sep07/sep26news2
accessdate = 2007-09-28
] When he confirms his stance against doping, Merckx will typically point out that cycling is unfairly treated when 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". One of his closest friends is former RSC Anderlecht-player Paul van Himst.

Cultural references

* When the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Belgium in 2005, she met Merckx as a cultural representative of Belgium. [cite web
title = Rice's Packed Schedule Leaves Little Room for Cultural Visits
author = Glenn Kessler
date = 2007-01-15
url = http://blog.washingtonpost.com/on-the-plane/rice-in-middle-east-january-2007/rices_packed_schedule_leaves_l.html
accessdate = 2007-08-25
* A station on the Brussels metro is named in his honour. In this station his world record bike can be seen.
* A cycling contest, the Eddy Merckx Grand Prix, is named in his honour.
* 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. "Duo interview Tom Boonen - Eddy Merckx", "Gazet van Antwerpen", 3 February 2007]
* Merckx cameoed himself in several movies, of which the 1985 film "American Flyers", starring Kevin Costner, is the best known. [cite web
title = Internet Movie Database profile Eddy Merckx
date = 2007-06-19
url = http://imdb.com/name/nm0580472/
accessdate = 2007-06-19

ignificant victories by race

Grand Tours (11 victories)

*5× Tours de France, 34 stage wins
*5× Giro d'Italia, 24 stage wins
*1× Vuelta a España, 6 stage wins

Other stage races

*1× Tour de Suisse
*2× Tour of Belgium
*3× Paris-Nice
*1× Tour de Romandie
*1× Dauphiné Libéré
*1× Midi Libre
*4× Tour of Sardinia

Classic cycle races (28)

*7× Milan-Sanremo
*2× Ronde van Vlaanderen
*3× Paris-Roubaix
*5× Liège-Bastogne-Liège
*2× Giro di Lombardia
*2× Amstel Gold Race
*3× La Flèche Wallonne
*1× Paris-Brussels
*3× Ghent-Wevelgem

World titles

*3× flagiconUCI World Championships
*1× flagiconUCI Amateur World Championships

Track races

*17 six-day races
*3× European Championships
*7× Belgian Madison Championships (with Patrick Sercu)

ignificant victories by year

;1964:flagiconUCI World Amateur Road Race Champion;1965: Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu);1966 (Team Peugeot-BP):Milan-Sanremo:Trofeo Baracchi, with Ferdinand Bracke:Championship of Flanders:Tour de Morbihan;1967 (Team Peugeot-BP): flagiconUCI World Cycling Championships:Milan-Sanremo:La Flèche Wallonne:Gent-Wevelgem:Trofeo Baracchi, with Ferdi Bracke:2 stages, Giro d'Italia:Critérium des As:Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu);1968 (Team Faema):Giro d'Italia:: Overall classification::::::4 stages:Paris-Roubaix:Tour de Romandie:Volta a Catalunya:Tre Valli Varesine:Giro di Sardegna:Gran Premio di Lugano:A travers Lausanne;1969 (Team Faema):Tour de France:: Overall classification:::::: Combativity Award::6 stages: 4 stages, Giro d'Italia:Milan-Sanremo:Ronde van Vlaanderen:Liège-Bastogne-Liège:Paris-Luxembourg:Paris-Nice, including::4 stages:Super Prestige Pernod International;1970 (Team Faema-Faemino):Tour de France:: Overall classification:: Mountains Classification:: Combativity Award::8 stages:Giro d'Italia:: Overall classification::3 stages:Paris-Roubaix:La Flèche Wallonne:Gent-Wevelgem:Paris-Nice:Tour of Belgium:Critérium des As:flagicon|BEL Belgian National Cycling Championship:Super Prestige Pernod International;1971 (Team Molteni):Tour de France:: Overall classification:: Points Classification::4 stages:flagiconUCI World Cycling Championships:Milan-Sanremo:Liège-Bastogne-Liège:Giro di Lombardia:Rund um den Henninger Turm:Omloop "Het Volk":Paris-Nice:Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré:Grand Prix du Midi Libre:Tour of Belgium:Giro di Sardegna:Super Prestige Pernod International;1972 (Team Molteni):Tour de France:: Overall classification:: Points Classification::6 stages:Giro d'Italia:: Overall classification::4 stages:Hour record - 49.431 km:Milan-Sanremo:Liège-Bastogne-Liège:Giro di Lombardia:La Flèche Wallonne:Giro dell'Emilia:Giro del Piemonte:Grote Scheldeprijs:Trofeo Baracchi, with Roger Swerts:Super Prestige Pernod International;1973 (Team Molteni):Giro d'Italia:: Overall classification:: Points Classification::6 stages: Vuelta a España:: Overall classification:: Points Classification:: Combined Classification::Sprints Classification::6 stages:Paris-Roubaix:Liège-Bastogne-Liège:Amstel Gold Race:Gent-Wevelgem:Grand Prix des Nations:Omloop "Het Volk":Paris-Brussels:Giro di Sardegna:GP Fourmies:Super Prestige Pernod Trophy;1974 (Team Molteni):Tour de France:: Overall classification:: Combativity Award::8 stages:Giro d'Italia:: Overall classification::2 stages:flagiconUCI World Cycling Championships:Tour de Suisse, including::Points Classification::King of the Mountains::3 stages:Critérium des As:Super Prestige Pernod Trophy;1975 (Team Molteni):Milan-Sanremo:Ronde van Vlaanderen:Liège-Bastogne-Liège:Amstel Gold Race:Catalan Week:2 stages, Tour de France:1 stage, Tour de Suisse:Giro di Sardegna:Super Prestige Pernod Trophy:Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu);1976 (Team Molteni):Milan-Sanremo:Catalan Week;1977 (Team Fiat) : 1 stage, Tour de Suisse: Tour Méditerranéen: Six Days of Munich (with Patrick Sercu): Six Days of Zürich (with Patrick Sercu): Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu)

ee also

* Cycling records
* List of doping cases in cycling



* | publisher=Helios| year=1989| isbn= 90-289-1465-X
* | publisher=Franco-Suisse| year=1973| oclc = 57423874
* | publisher=Het Volk| year=1975

s-bef|before=Rudi Altig s-ttl|title=World Road Racing Champion
s-aft|after=Vittorio Adorni s-bef|before=Jean-Pierre Monseré s-ttl|title=World Road Racing Champion
s-aft|after=Marino Basso s-bef|before=Felice Gimondi s-ttl|title=World Road Racing Champion
s-aft|after=Hennie Kuiper s-bef|before=Jan Janssen s-ttl|title=Winner of the Tour de France
s-aft|after=Luis Ocaña s-bef|before=Luis Ocaña s-ttl|title=Winner of the Tour de France
s-aft|after=Bernard Thévenet s-bef|before=Felice Gimondi s-ttl|title=Winner of the Giro d'Italia
s-aft|after=Felice Gimondi s-bef|before=Felice Gimondi s-ttl|title=Winner of the Giro d'Italia
s-aft|after=Gösta Pettersson s-bef|before=Gösta Pettersson s-ttl|title=Winner of the Giro d'Italia
s-aft|after=Fausto Bertoglio s-bef|before=José Manuel Fuente s-ttl|title=Winner of the Vuelta a España
s-aft|after=José Manuel Fuente s-bef|before=Franco Bitossi s-ttl|title=Winner of the green jersey in the Tour de France
s-aft|after=Walter Godefroot s-bef|before=Walter Godefroot s-ttl|title=Winner of the green jersey in the Tour de France
s-aft|after=Herman Van Springelsuccession box
before=Jan Janssen
title= Winner of Paris-Roubaix
after=Walter Godefroot
succession box
before=Walter Godefroot
title= Winner of Paris-Roubaix
after=Roger Rosiers
succession box
before=Roger De Vlaeminck
title= Winner of Paris-Roubaix
after=Roger De Vlaeminck
s-ach|aw s-bef|before=Serge Reding s-ttl|title=Belgian Sportsman of the Year
s-aft|after=Bruno Brokken s-ach|rec s-bef|before=Ole Ritter s-ttl|title=UCI hour record (49.431 km)
years=25 October 1972-27 October 2000
s-aft|after=Chris Boardman

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