Eddy Merckx facts for kids

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Eddy Merckx
A man holding a bicycle. The man's shirt says "Molteni Arcore".
Merckx in 1973
Personal information
Full name Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx
Nickname The Cannibal
Born 17 June 1945 (1945-06-17) (age 73)
Meensel-Kiezegem, Belgium
Team information
Current team Retired
Discipline Road and track
Role Rider
Rider type All-rounder
Amateur team(s)
1961–1964 Evere Kerkhoek Sportif
Professional team(s)
1965
1966–1967
1968–1970
1971–1976
1977
1978
Solo-Superia
Peugeot-BP
Faema
Molteni
Fiat
C&A
Infobox last updated on
16 January 2007
Eddy Merckx
Medal record
World Championships
Gold 1967 Heerlen Professional Men's Road Race
Gold 1971 Mendrisio Professional Men's Road Race
Gold 1974 Montréal Professional Men's Road Race

Baron Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx (IPA: ['merks]) (born June 17 1945, Meensel-Kiezegem, Vlaams Brabant, Belgium) is a former Belgian professional road racing cyclist. Merckx, regarded as the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time, established several world cycling records, some of which remain unbroken to this day.

Racing career

Early successes in stage racing and single day races

Merckx started competing in 1961. Three years later he became Amateur World Champion. He turned professional in 1965. In 1966 he won the first of seven editions of Milan-Sanremo. 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 Professional World Champion at Heerlen, The Netherlands. He was world champion twice more.

In 1968 Merckx moved to the Italian Faema team. As world champion he wore the rainbow jersey and won the Paris-Roubaix race for the first time. He also won the Giro d'Italia . He won the Giro three more times.

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. Anquetil was so good at time trailing many people thought he was unbeatable. Merckx went on to win Milan-Sanremo and Ronde van Vlaanderen several weeks later.

In his Tour de France debut (first entry) 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 won the three jerseys in one Tour de France, and only Tony Romingerin 1993 and Laurent Jalabert in 1995 have been able to match this feat in any Grand Tour (cycling). Both were in the Tour of Spain. Merckx was only 24, so would have won the white jersey (for best rider under 25 years of age) but the Tour de France did not give a white jersey until the 1970s.

Eddy Merkx was the first Belgian to win the Tour de France since Sylvère Maes in 1939. Merckx became a national hero. He won the Tour four more times: in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974, equalling Jacques Anquetil. Over the next 25 years, only Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain were able to equal the five victories. Merckx still holds the records for stage wins (34) and number of days in the Yellow Jersey (96).

Challenges to Merckx's domination in the Grand Tours

The greatest challenge to Merckx was in the 1971 Tour de France. Luis Ocana attacked and won the maillot jaune by several minutes. Ocana held his lead until he crashed and had to abandon (leave) the tour. Many people hoped they would race against each other again.of a rematch between the two.

Before that could happen, Merckx raced in the 1972 edition of the Giro d'Italia and beat the mountain racing expert Jose Manuel Fuente in the mountain stages. In that year's Tour de France Ocana was sick and withdrew.

In 1973 Merckx rode in the Vuelta a España where he beat Luis Ocana and Bernard Thévenet and then went on to win the Giro d'Italia. 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 the very narrow margin of twelve seconds over Gianbattista Baronchelli and 33 seconds over Felice Gimondi.

Classics victories

In addition to Grand Tour successes, Merckx has a long list of victories in one-day races. Among the highlights are

  • a record seven victories in Milan-Sanremo
  • two victories in the Ronde van Vlaanderen
  • three wins in Paris-Roubaix
  • a record five wins in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and
  • two in the Giro di Lombardia

That is a total of 19 victories in the 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.

Merckx retired from racing in 1978, at the age of 33.

Setbacks and lesser days

The blackest day in Merckx's career was in 1969, 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 and Merckx crashed. Wambst was killed instantly, and Merckx suffered concussion and fell unconscious. This accident cracked a vertebra and twisted his pelvis. Afterwards he said his riding was never the same, because he always be in pain, especially while climbing.

That same year, during the Giro d'Italia, was found to have used drugs and disqualified. He cried in front of reporters and still 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. This incident was one of the reasons why Merckx thought his first Tour de France victory, later that year, his best ever win

The end of his Tour-career came in 1975 (although he did compete in 1977 he finished 6th that year). That year, he attempted to win his sixth 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 during stage 14 a French spectator punched him in the liver. 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).

Records

Merckx set these records 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 Pelissier 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).
EddyMerckxHourRecordBike
The bicycle Merckx used during his hour speed record attempt.

Hour record

Merckx set the hour record in 25 October 1972. He covered 49.431 km at high altitude in Mexico City. The record was unbeaten until 1984, when Francesco Moser broke it using a specially designed bicycle. During the next 15 years, various racers improved the record to more than 56 km. However, because of the more and more strange designs of the bikes and position of the rider, in 2000 the UCI said a "traditional" bike must be used. When Chris Boardman had another go at Merckx's reinstated record in 2000, he beat it by slightly more than 10 metres at sea level. But, Merckx had raced a full road season winning the Tour, Giro and four Classics, while Boardman was a time trial specialist who had retired from road racing and had prepared specially for the 2000 Hour Record.

EddyMerckxFactoryInMeise
The Eddy Merckx bicycle factory in Meise.

After retirement

Having retired, Merckx has a bicycle factory [1] 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 oesophagus 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 started cycling again, but only for leisure.

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 was a professional cyclist for Team T-Mobile.

Despite this early incident, Merckx is a perfect ambassador to Belgium (because he does not support Flanders more than Wallonia, but supports the unity of the country). Because of this, he came 4th in the Walloon version of the "Greatest Belgian" contest in 2005, and third in the Flemish (3rd) version..

In 1996 the Belgian king gave him the 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.

Merckx has condemned doping (he tested positive twice in his career). At the same time he has been quick to 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 "believed what Lance told him than what appeared in newspapers". After Armstrong won his third Tour de France, Merckx predicted he would go on to win as many as seven.

Trivia and cultural references

  • 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).
  • Eddy Merckx has a namesake who is a multiple Belgian Champion and world champion 2006 in three cushion billiards.
  • While climbing Mont Ventoux in 1970 to a stage win, he pushed himself so hard that oxygen had to be administered.
  • In the mid-seventies Merckx figured in some television commercials for cigarettes; an act for which he was criticized and which he now regrets.
  • When the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Belgium in 2005, she met Merckx as a cultural representative of Belgium.
  • The Eddy Merckx metro station on the Brussels metro is named in his honour. His world record bike is at this station.
  • A cycling contest, The Eddy Merckx Grand Prix, is named in his honour.
  • In the French comedy Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob) (1973) with Louis de Funès, de Funès' character hears a conversation between a kidnapper and his victim, a revolutionary. When the revolutionary says: "The revolution is like a bike ( http://likeabikes.com ): When it doesn't move forward, it falls.", de Funès attributes the line to Eddy Merckx. One of the kidnappers corrects him and says Che Guevara once said this.
  • 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 to be "Belgian of the Century" and another four years later, the magazine Humo called him "the Greatest Belgian".
  • Paul Van Himst, another Belgian sport legend, is one of his closest friends.
  • Merckx cameoed as himself in several movies, of which the 1985 movie American Flyers, starring Kevin Costner, is the best known.

Significant victories by race

Grand Tours (11)

Eddy Merckx Grand tour results
1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977
Tour de France general classification - - 1 1 1 1 - 1 2 - 6
Tour de France mountains classification - - 1 1 3 2 - 2 2 - ?
Tour de France points classification - - 1 2 1 1 - 2 2 - 5
Tour de France stages won - - 6 8 4 6 - 8 2 - 0
Giro d'Italia general classification 9 1 DSQ 1 - 1 1 1 - 8 -
Giro d'Italia mountains classification 3 1 DSQ 4 - 2 2 2 - 7 -
Giro d'Italia points classification 2 1 DSQ 3 - 2 1 4 - 2 -
Giro d'Italia stages won 2 3 4 3 - 4 6 2 - 0 -
Vuelta a España general classification - - - - - - 1 - - - -
Vuelta a España mountains classification - - - - - - 2 - - - -
Vuelta a España points classification - - - - - - 1 - - - -
Vuelta a España stages won - - - - - - 6 - - - -
  • 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
  • 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

  • Arc en ciel.svg World Championships
  • Arc en ciel.svg Amateur World Championships

Track races

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

Significant victories by year

1964
Arc en ciel.svgWorld Amateur Road Race Champion
1965
Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu)
1966 (Team Peugeot-BP)
Milan-Sanremo
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Ferdi Bracke
Championship of Flanders
Tour de Morbihan
1967 (Team Peugeot-BP)
Arc en ciel.svg World Pro Road Race
Milan-Sanremo
La Flèche Wallonne
Gent-Wevelgem
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Ferdi Bracke
2 stages, Giro d'Italia
Critérium des As
Six Days of Gent (with Patrick Sercu)
1968 (Team Faema)
Jersey pink.svgGiro d'Italia, including
Mountains Classification
Points Classification
4 stages
Volta a Catalunya
Tour de Romandie
Paris-Roubaix
Tre Valli Varesine
Tour of Sardinia
G.P. Lugano
A travers Lausanne
1969 (Team Faema)
Tour de France
Jersey yellow.svgOverall classification
Jersey polkadot.svgMountains Classification
Jersey green.svgPoints Classification
6 stages
Paris-Luxembourg
Milan-Sanremo
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Paris-Nice, including
4 stages
Super Prestige Pernod International
1970 (Team Faema-Faemino)
Tour de France
Jersey yellow.svgOverall classification
Jersey polkadot.svgMountains Classification
8 stages
Jersey pink.svgGiro d'Italia, including
3 stages
Paris-Nice
Tour of Belgium
Paris-Roubaix
La Flèche Wallonne
Gent-Wevelgem
Critérium des As
 Belgium National Cycling Championship Road Race
Super Prestige Pernod International
1971 (Team Molteni)
Tour de France
Jersey yellow.svgOverall classification
Jersey green.svgPoints Classification
4 stages
Arc en ciel.svg World Pro Road Race
Milan-Sanremo
Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Giro di Lombardia
Rund um den Henninger Turm
Omloop "Het Volk"
Paris-Nice
Dauphiné Libéré
GP du Midi Libre
Tour of Belgium
Super Prestige Pernod International
1972 (Team Molteni)
Tour de France
Jersey yellow.svgOverall classification
Jersey green.svgPoints Classification
6 stages
Jersey pink.svgGiro d'Italia, including
4 stages
Milan-Sanremo
Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Giro di Lombardia
La Flèche Wallonne
Giro dell'Emilia
Giro del Piemonte
Grote Scheldeprijs
Trofeo Angelo Baracchi, with Roger Swerts
Hour Record - 49.431 km
Super Prestige Pernod International
1973 (Team Molteni)
Jersey pink.svgGiro d'Italia, including
Points Classification
6 stages
Jersey gold.svgVuelta a España, including
Points Classification
Sprints Classification
Combined Classification
6 stages
Paris-Roubaix
Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Grand Prix des Nations
Amstel Gold Race
Gent-Wevelgem
Omloop "Het Volk"
Paris-Brussels
GP Fourmies
Super Prestige Pernod Trophy
1974 (Team Molteni)
Tour de France
Jersey yellow.svgOverall classification
8 stages
Jersey pink.svgGiro d'Italia, including
2 stages
Arc en ciel.svg World Pro Road Race
Tour de Suisse, including
Points Classification
KoM
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
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)


Doping

Merckx twice tested positive for doping in his career. Because he has admitted doing this publicly the city of Stuttgart, Germany did not want to invite him to the world cycling championships being held in the city in 2007

Other pages

  • Cycling records

Images for kids


Eddy Merckx Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.