Côte de Stockeu
Eddy Merckx is considered to be the greatest cyclist of all time. His record of achievements is unmatched and in these modern days of specialisation it is hard to see any rider compete at such an intensive level again. At home in the classics as well as in tours he was an excellent sprinter, climber, time trialist and was superb on the velodrome.
With 96 days in the Yellow Jersey and 35 stage wins, Merckx was, and still is, the most successful Tour rider in history. In 1969, Merkcx took his first Tour title, taking along with him the Mountain and Points Jerseys for good measure. Even his rivals were impressed. This performance prompted French racer Christian Raymond to name Merckx 'The Cannibal.'
Merckx also recorded five wins in the Tour of Italy (1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974). He was able to wear the competition's pink jersey on 76 days.
He won his first important title in 1964 as amateur world champion. He became a professional cyclist in 1965. In 1966 he won the Milan-San Remo classic, his first important victory as a profesional. He won this race seven times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975 and 1976).
Merckx was also succesful in classic races. He won the Paris-Roubaix race three times (1968, 1970, and 1973), the Liège-Bastogne-Liège race five times, the Flèche Wallonne three times and the Tour of Flanders twice. Merckx was also nicknamed “Mr Ardennes” in tribute to his record breaking rides the Belgian Classics and it is fitting that a memorial to his achievements is at the summit of the Côte de Stockeu.
He is the only Belgian athlete who was voted world sportsman of the year three times (1969, 1971 and 1974). Eddy Merckx won 445 races at the highest level.
He also won other Tours such as the Tour of Spain (1973), the Tour of Switzerland (1974) and the Tour of Belgium (twice) in 1970 and 1971.
In 1996 King Albert II accorded Eddy Merckx the Olympic Order in the name of the International Olympic Committee for his contribution to the development of cycling. Already chevalier of the Order of Leopold, Eddy Merckx was awarded the title of baron in the same year.
His best performance in terms of sporting honour was without doubt his second place to Thevenet in the 1975 Tour. The pair seemed equally matched - Thevenet - a great climber but poor descender and Merckx, not quite at the top of his game. On the stage into the ski-resort of Pra-Loup, Eddy, who entered the stage with 58 seconds advantage decided attack was the best form of defence and at the foot of the last climb seemed to have the race sewn up.
Merckx then hit the wall. Gimondi, a close friend, was the first to reach him and tried to rally him - but Merckx was now paying the price for his boldness. Next to pass the struggling Merckx was Thevenet - who "passed him on the other side of the road, too embarrassed to look at his rival's distress." Merckx ended the stage 1 minute behind Thevenet.
Eddy in the Tour
Merckx had a bad day on the Izoard - and then things got worse. Maybe a touch of wheels saw him and the Danish rider Ole Ritter come tumbling down in the neutralised section. The doctors urged Merckx to retire since he was concussed and sick - he refused. That night an x-ray revealed that he had broken his cheek bone - and had no sensation in his jaw. Merckx, aware that if he retired it would affect people's evaluation of Thevenet’s victory decided to continue. Unable to eat solid foods, Merckx not only continued to Paris, but carried on competing as well, actually gaining time on Thevenet in the time trial. Each evening Merckx would stagger into the press room, barely able to talk to the astonishment of the assembled journalists, many of whom urged him to retire.
But Merckx was not quite finished. On the last day he made one last attack - and a worried peloton had to chase hard to pull “the Cannibal” back. As Thevenet passed Merckx, the Belgium said, “Now you have won the Tour!”
1965: 2nd Belgian Road Race Championship
1966: 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Baracchi Trophy (with Ferdi Bracke), 1st Tour du Morbihan + 2 stages
1967: 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Gent-Wevelgem, 1st Fleche Wallonne, 1st World Road Race Championship, 1st Baracchi Trophy (with Ferdi Bracke), 1st Ronde des Korrigans, 1st Prix d'Armentieres, 1st Grand Prix Salvarini, 1st Circuit du Tournaisis, 1st Wavre-Nandrin, 1st Prix de La Panne, 1st Prix de Sint Lenaarts, 1st Brabant Championship, 1st Prix de Liedekerke, 1st Prix de Simpelveld, 1st Prix d'Enter, 2nd Super Prestige Pernod, 2nd Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 3rd Ronde van Vlaanderen, 7th Giro di Lombardia, 8th Paris-Roubaix, 9th Giro d'Italia + 2 stages, 10th Paris-Nice + 2 stages
1968: 1st Giro di Sardinia, 1st Paris-Roubaix, 1st Giro d'Italia, 1st Gran Premio Cynar Lugano, 2nd Grand Prix of Forli, 4th Super Prestige Pernod
1969: 1st Paris-Nice, 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1st Tour de France, 1st Super Prestige Pernod
1970: 1st Tour de France,1st Paris-Nice, 1st Gent-Wevelgem, 1st Tour of Belgium, 1st Paris-Roubaix, 1st Fleche Wallonne, 1st Giro d'Italia, 1st Belgian Road Race Championship, 1st Super Prestige Pernod
1971: 1st Tour de France, 1st World Road Race Championship, 1st Giro di Sardinia, 1st Paris-Nice, 1st Het Volk, 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Tour of Belgium, 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1st Giro di Lombardia, 1st Super Prestige Pernod
1972: 1st Giro d'Italia, 1st Tour de France, 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1st Fleche Wallonne, 1st Baracchi Trophy (with Roger Swerts), 1st Giro di Lombardia, 1st Super Prestige Pernod, 2nd Belgian Road Race Championship
1973: 1st Giro d'Italia, 1st Vuelta a Espana, 1st Paris-Roubaix, 1st Giro di Sardinia, 1st Het Volk, 1st Gent-Wevelgem, 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1st Cronostaffeta (3-man team time trail), 1st Paris - Bruxelles, 1st Grand Prix des Nations, 1st Super Prestige Pernod, 2nd Semana Catalana, 2nd Belgian Road Race Championship
1974: 1st Tour de France, 1st Giro d'Italia, 1st World Road Race Championship, 1st Tour de Suisse, 1st Super Prestige Pernod, 2nd Semana Catalana
1975: Milano - San Remo, 1st Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1st Semana Catalana, 1st Super Prestige Pernod, 3rd Belgian Road Race Championship
1976: 1st Milano - San Remo, 1st Semana Catalana
1977: 1st Tour de la Mediterranean
1965: Gent 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
1967: Gent 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
1968: Charleroi 6 Day (with Ferdi Bracke)
1971: Milan 6 Day (with J Stevens)
1972: World Hour Record, World 10km Record, World 20km Record
1973: Grenoble 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Dortmund 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
1974: Antwerp 6 Day (with Sercu ?)
1975: Gent 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Antwerp 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Grenoble 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
1976: Antwerp 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Rotterdam 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
1977: Gent 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Berlin 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Maastricht 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Munich 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu), Zurich 6 Day (with Patrick Sercu)
Eddy passes Toms Memorial
Photos courtesy of Wielersite, Velo Archives, Alex Pages, BBC.