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Eddy Merckx
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Eddy Merckx

    

Eddy, Baron Merckx (born June 17, 1945) is considered by many to be the greatest cyclist of the 20th century and is often called "the Einstein of the two-wheelers" or "The Cannibal". He is the five-time champion of the two most important races in professional cycling, the Tour de France and the Giro D'Italia, and is one of only four cyclists to have won all three of the major Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana). He won more than 485 races during his professional career. In 1996, Merckx was awarded the title of Baron in his home country of Belgium.

His first win at the Tour de France in 1969 (the first time he had competed in the race) brought his name to the world's attention. He finished with the maillot jaune as the overall leader of the race, with the green jersey as the points competition winner, and the red polka-dotted jersey as the best climber in the mountain stages of the race, a trifecta unique in the history of the sport. If the young riders' white jersey (for best rider in the Tour that is under 25 years of age) had existed at that time, Merckx would have won that as well--he was 24.

Other racers called him the "cannibal" because he refused to ride tactically, preferring to go flat out at all times. During his peak years as a racer, he is said to have cycled over 35,000km a year. While climbing the steep, severe Mont Ventoux in 1970 to a stage win, he rode so strongly and pushed himself so hard that after he finished, oxygen was administered.

In 1975, he attempted to win his sixth Tour de France, but became a victim of violence in sports. Many Frenchmen were upset that a Belgian might beat the record of five wins set by Frenchman, Jacques Anquetil. Merckx held the yellow jersey for 8 days of the race, which raised his record to 95 total days, but during stage 14 a spectator leapt from the crowd and punched him in the kidneys. He kept racing with a double fracture and took medications. The pain in combination with the medicine caused him to fall during the race. He eventually soon ran out of energy and lost his lead but on the last stage he showed one last sign of defiance by sprinting ahead of the peleton. He would never win the Tour de France again.

In addition to his other achievements, Merckx set the hour speed record in Mexico City in 1972; is one of the few cyclists to win Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North, three times; and won 17 six-day races.

When asked for his advice to younger riders who wanted to become professionals, he is reputed to have simply said, "Ride lots."

He retired from racing in 1978. His son Axel is currently a racer and rode in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Tour de France.

Eddy Merckx is now a bicycle manufacturer and race commentator. He enjoys life and is rather heavier than when he was racing.

Significant victories

1964

World Amateur Road Race Champion
1966
Milan - San Remo 
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Ferdi Bracke 
1967
World Pro Road Race 
Milan - San Remo 
Flèche Wallone 
Ghent - Wevelgem 
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Ferdi Bracke 
2 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Critérium des As 
1968
Giro d'Italia 
KoM, Giro d'Italia 
Points Competition, Giro d'Italia 
4 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Tour of Catalonia 
Tour of Romandy 
Paris - Roubaix 
Tre Valli Varesine 
1969
Tour de France 
KoM, Tour de France 
Points Competition, Tour de France 
5 stages, Tour de France 
Paris - Luxembourg 
Milan - San Remo 
Tour of Flanders 
Liège - Bastogne - Liège 
Paris - Nice 
4 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1970
Tour de France 
KoM, Tour de France 
8 stages, Tour de France 
Giro d'Italia 
3 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Paris - Nice 
Tour of Belgium 
Paris - Roubaix 
Flèche Wallone 
Ghent - Wevelgem 
Critérium des As 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1971
Tour de France 
Points Competition, Tour de France 
4 stages, Tour de France 
World Pro Road Race 
Milan - San Remo 
Liège - Bastogne - Liège 
Tour of Lombardy 
Frankfurt Grand Prix 
Omloop Het Volk 
Paris - Nice 
Dauphiné - Libéré 
GP du Midi Libre 
Tour of Belgium 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1972
Tour de France 
Points Competition, Tour de France 
6 stages, Tour de France 
Giro d'Italia 
4 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Milan - San Remo 
Liège - Bastogne - Liège 
Tour of Lombardy 
Flèche Wallone 
Giro dell'Emilia 
Giro del Piemonte 
GP de l'Escaut 
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Roger Swerts 
Hour Record - 49.431km 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1973
Giro d'Italia 
Points Competition, Giro d'Italia 
6 stages, Giro d'Italia 
Vuelta a España 
Points Competition, Vuelta a España 
6 stages, Vuelta a España 
Paris - Roubaix 
Liège - Bastogne - Liège 
Grand Prix des Nations 
Amstel Gold Race 
Ghent - Wevelgem 
Omloop Het Volk 
Paris - Brussels 
GP Fourmies 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1974
Tour de France 
8 stages, Tour de France 
Giro d'Italia 
2 stages, Giro d'Italia 
World Pro Road Race 
Tour of Switzerland 
Points competition, Tour of Switzerland 
KoM, Tour of Switzerland 
3 stages, Tour of Switzerland 
Critérium des As 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1975
Milan - San Remo 
Tour of Flanders 
Liège - Bastogne - Liège 
Amstel Gold Race 
Catalan Week 
2 stages, Tour de France 
1 stage, Tour of Switzerland 
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy 
1976
Milan - San Remo 
Catalan Week 
1977
1 stage, Tour of Switzerland

See also

Violence in sports