Those of you who follow my blog are aware of the momentous opportunity I had in spending some one-on-one time with Lance Armstrong. The "unofficial" seven-time victor of the Tour de France was certainly a great cyclist, but the Texan doesn't, in my opinion, even come close to the best of all time. I'm referring to Eddy Merckx.
Just try to digest a few of these facts concerning "The Cannibal" ...
— Five-time winner of both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy)
— Three world road race championships
— More than 30 victories in one-day Classic races
— 525 career wins in more than 1,800 starts
From the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, the Belgian professional was nearly unbeatable. To glean an understanding of his enormous drive and desire, I highly recommend the following book: "Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike" by sports journalist William Fotheringham (Yellow Jersey Press, 2012).
Chapters within the 308-page publication delve into meaningful moments in Merckx's career, including: his time as an amateur; the 1969 Giro where he was wrongly accused of doping and forced to exit while leading the race; the 1971 Tour de France in which he utilized psychological warfare to defeat Spaniard Luis Ocana; and how after setting a new Hour Record in 1972, he said never mention it again.
The book also showcases Merckx's approach to every race, no matter how minor or major the event was on the cycling calendar. He was there to win; the rest of you can fight for second place. As British cyclist Barry Hoban famously said, whenever a flag was waved by the roadside Merckx would sprint for it.
While the Belgian racer's dominance was admired, it also left an uneasy feeling among fans, the press, and even his fellow competitors. Jacques Goddet, a French sports journalist and director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1986, once said, "We have ended up with a disconcerting paradox, because we get tired rapidly of watching a super-athlete winning every day and imposing himself on an event merely by the fact that he is there. We almost resent the fact that such a phenomenon exists. Power wears us down, dictatorship leads to rebellion."
Anyway, if you read only one book about Edouard Merckx, this is the one you should select. Also, please check out my next blog posting — I have a big surprise concerning Eddy Merckx.
'Thought for the day'
"It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels." — Heinz Stucke, long-distance cyclist from Germany
From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)