Eddy battles whilst in yellow during the 1969 Tour de France.
With a nickname like ‘the Cannibal’ you’d expect Eddy Merckx to be something of a tough character, but off the bike he is notoriously warm and amiable. On the bike was a different matter, his desire to win was immense, and the results were unparalleled. Born in 1945 the Belgian won 80 races as an amateur in four years before turning professional at the age of 20, wining his first Classic, Milan-San-Remo, a year later. In 1967 Eddy signed for the Faema team, and the day after sealing the contract became World Champion for the first time. The next year Merckx won the first of his unrivalled eleven Grand Tour Wins in the Giro d’Italia, also taking the points and mountain classifications in the process.
Eddy on the go in stage one of the 1969 Tour de France, image credit Tony Strouken
From there Merckx only got better, more World Championships, Grand Tour victories and one day classics followed, including four Tours in a row in 1972 and 1973. ‘72 was also the year Merckx went for the hour record, a race against the clock from a standing start in a velodrome to cover the greatest distance possible. Merckx called his effort the ‘hardest ride I have ever done’, his record of 49.431 km stood for 12 years, before Moser beat it with his disc wheels and skin suit (though various rule changes retrospectively meant the record actually stood for 28 years!). Cycling’s Triple Crown (comprising the Giro, the Tour de France and the World Championships in one year) came in 1974, and continued to win races big and small up to his retirement in 1978. Overall Merckx won 525 professional races, 11 Gran Tours, three World championships and all five ‘Monuments’ (at least twice).
Wearing yellow for the last time, Eddy in the 1975 TdF, image credit Yuzuru Sunada
It doesn’t end there though, as anyone with a passing interest in high end road bikes from the 80s and 90s knows, the Merckx name lived on emblazoned on the downtube of some exceptionally nicely made bikes. Merckx started his eponymous bike business in 1980, after a period of time spent learning from legendary builder Ugo De Rosa (who had built a number of his race-winning bikes) in Italy he then asked De Rosa to train his staff at his factory in Belgium. The combination of one of the finest bike builders in the World and its most successful racer led to a formidable reputation for Merckx cycles, and they sponsored several high profile teams including 7-Eleven, Panasonic, Telekom and Motorola who all had a great deal of wins atop the bikes. These Merckx frames in team colours are now highly collectible, for good reason!
Amongst the most highly prized of the Merckx road bikes amongst collectors - the 10th Anniversary
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