“Noth­ing can ever com­pare to this; there will only ever be one Eddy Mer­ckx in his­tory”

Procycling - - Rider Diaries -

on Mer­ckx Jac­ques God­det, “Never again will we be able to say that the Tour is not won un­til Paris.” Mer­ckx pur­sued, “the des­tiny pre­scribed by the nat­u­ral play of his un­com­mon gifts,” typed An­toine Blondin. While for Pierre Chany the Bel­gian was, “like those mata­dors thirsty for blood who pro­voke the bull sim­ply to feel the thrill of ex­cite­ment.”

Five days later Mer­ckx stood in Paris in yel­low. The first Bel­gian to do so for 30 years. He also won the points jersey and the king of the moun­tains, some­thing that had never been done be­fore nor re­peated since. He would go on to stand on the top step in Paris on another four oc­ca­sions.

Mer­ckx first an­nounced him­self as a grand tour rider at the Giro in 1967. There he won a leg­endary stage on Block­haus ahead of Ital­ian climber Italo Zil­i­oli, much to a na­tion’s shock. The next year he opened his grand tour ac­count at the same race, tak­ing three stages on his way to a five-minute win over­all. The Giro was a race he would win again in 1970 be­fore claim­ing three in a row be­tween 1972 and 1974. He also took the Vuelta in 1973, com­plet­ing a clean sweep of all three grand tours.

If Mer­ckx dom­i­nated three-week stage rac­ing, one- day Clas­sics were no dif­fer­ent. Mi­lano-San­remo was his favoured hunt­ing ground, first win­ning the race in 1966, tak­ing an 11-man sprint to the line. In to­tal he claimed the race seven times in the space of 11 years. Over the course of his ca­reer he added five Liège-Bas­togne-Liège ti­tles, three ParisRoubaix wins, and Flan­ders and Lom­bardy twice each, to be­come the most suc­cess­ful Clas­sics rider of all.

Nor was he a stranger to the rainbow jersey. He won the World Cham­pi­onships three times, a record he shares with three other rid­ers.

Sto­ries of Mer­ckx’s dar­ing es­capes and solo es­capades are le­gion. For him, nor­mal tac­tics didn’t mat­ter, if his heart and legs told him to go, he went. One of his most leg­endary wins came in the 1969 Ronde van Vlaan­deren when, in gales and down­pours, he de­stroyed the pelo­ton on the Gram­mont and, with 70km still to go, dis­obeyed his team di­rec­tor’s or­ders to wait and soloed into a head­wind to win by over five min­utes.

“I thought to my­self that if I was go­ing to do all the work on the front, I may just as well ride off alone,” he re­flected in later years.

Eddy Mer­ckx. The Can­ni­bal. The best there ever was. The best there ever will be. Tour de France: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974 Giro d’Italia: 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974 Vuelta a Es­paña: 1973 Mi­lano-San­remo: 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976 Ronde van Vlaan­deren: 1969, 1975 Paris-Roubaix: 1968, 1970, 1973 Liège-Bas­togne-Liège: 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975 Giro di Lom­bar­dia: 1971, 1972 World Cham­pi­onships: 1967, 1971, 1974 Gent-Wevel­gem: 1967, 1970, 1973 La Flèche Wal­lonne: 1967, 1970, 1972 Paris-Nice: 1969, 1970, 1971 Dauphiné Libéré: 1971

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