Eddy Merckx - The Cannibal

Considered by many the greatest cyclist of all time.
Out of 1800 road races held in 17 years, Merckx has achieved 525 victories. A legendary result.
Merckx was tireless. Not only did he race on the road from February to October, but he also competed in winter at the velodromes. He achieved 98 victories on the track, including the title of National Champion, European Champion and 17 Six Days.

At the end of his cycling career, Merckx started another successful career as a manufacturer of high-quality bicycles, on which a new generation of cyclists continued to win.

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1961 - On July 16, the 16-year-old Merckx competed in his first race, and the following year he had already won the National Rookie Championship. Thanks to this victory and 23 others, he moved to the higher category. Between 1963 and 1964 he won 28 races and became World Champion of amateurs in Sallanches, France. In '64 he also came twelfth at the Road Race at the Olympics.
In 1965 he became a professional and signed with Rik Van Looy's Belgian team, Solo-Superia, immediately proving to be a champion, winning 9 races out of the nearly 70 races he entered. In 1966, however, he left the Belgian team due to the way he was treated by his teammates. Merckx said that they kept mocking him and calling him names. So in the same year, he joined the Peugeot-BP-Michelin team.

Merckx was introverted, but always respectful of his opponents. He had infinite energy that he could channel perfectly. He ran to win, and after all, he always said it: people had come to see him triumph, and he didn't want to disappoint them. That's why his races against other champions like Gimondi, Van Looy, Maertens and Fuente were always spectacular.

1967 - Merckx won two Belgian Classics and the World Championship, only 3 years after winning the World Championship among amateurs. Merckx also won the Milano-Sanremo for the second time, riding a Colnago bike. Thus began a successful collaboration with the famous Italian manufacturer. Merckx's attention to detail was legendary, as was his search for perfection. Colnago had to build Merckx more than one hundred bikes, twenty in a single season, and Merckx often went to Colnago's workshop to examine the various stages of the manufacturing.

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1968 - Merckx won his first Giro d'Italia and 32 other races, including the prestigious Paris-Roubaix.

1969 - He won another 43 races, including another Milan-Sanremo and the most important Belgian Classics: the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Flanders. Merckx also won his first Tour de France with an incredible 20-minute lead over the second, 6 stage wins and every other classification.
This is the only year in which the same rider has won the general classification, the points classification and the climbers' classification. After these extraordinary results and his insatiable hunger for victories, the French began to nickname Merckx 'The Cannibal'.

1970 - A year of even more impressive success.
In two months Merckx won both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France (he even won 8 stages here). Between 1970 and 1971 he achieved 54 victories in 120 races, including another Tour de France, the Tour of Belgium, the Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Nice. In '71 he signed with Molteni team.

1972 - another 50 victories, including the Giro and Tour again, and on October 25th he broke Ole Ritter's time record in Mexico City on a Colnago bike, covering 49.431 km. His record was only broken in 1984.

1973 - 51 victories, including the Tour of Spain and the Tour of Italy, with 12 stage victories. He was even asked not to run the Tour to give the other riders a chance! That year he also began his collaboration with De Rosa, another important Italian manufacturer, which lasted until the end of his cycling career.

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1974 - Merckx became the first rider to win the Triple Crown of cycling, which consists of winning the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Men’s Road Race at the World Championships in one calendar year. It was also his third World title, becoming the third rider to ever be World Champion three times, after Binda and Rik Van Steemberg. Between '75 and '76, the last years of his career, Merckx collected 'only' 53 victories, including the seventh Milan-Sanremo: 7 victories out of 9 participations, an extraordinary feat that had never been repeated.

1978 - Merckx retired from competitive cycling and opened his own bicycle company, the Eddy Merckx Cycles. Merckx got the idea to build bikes from his friend De Rosa, who trained him in the art of making bikes by De Rosa, and then also became his technical advisor. He built his factory in what were formerly farm stables in Meise, a small town near Bruxelles. Among his first employees were some of his former Molteni teammates. At first, Merckx specialized in making steel frames. Later on, he switched over to aluminium and briefly titanium. Today, all but one of his bikes are made of carbon fiber, the lightest and stiffest material to make bikes.

1982 - Merckx signed its first professional frame supplier contract with Capri Sonne. That same year Dutchman Peter Winnen was the first to win a stage at the Tour with a frame designed and manufactured by Merckx.

In the 80s and 90s, Merckx bikes were used by many professionals, including the young Lance Armstrong, who became a great friend of Eddy.

2008 - After 28 years of leading the company, Merckx retired from his post as CEO, but remained heavily involved and continued to instruct his engineers and test the bikes that carried his name.
The company's flagship road bike is the EMX-525. It’s considered by many specialists one of the fastest and most responsive bikes in the world, for its power speed and stability. Other current models are:

The EMX-3, Eddy Merckx' Gran Fondo Style Bike. It has a more relaxed geometry than the EMX-525 to allow for longer, more comfortable rides;
The ETT, Eddy Merckx' Time Trial and Triathlon bike;
The EMX-1, Eddy Merckx' entry-level bike;
The AMX-1, Eddy Merckx' aluminium bike;

Merckx had always been obsessed with having the best possible bikes for his rides and as a manufacturer, his main objective has always been to build bikes that are stable and reliable at speed.
Everything that bears the Eddy Merckx Cycles name is a tribute to the incredible carrier of this legendary cyclist who has won everything, and whose legacy will continue to be remembered for generations.

 

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(1) Eddy Merckx 1978
(2) Merckx and Colnago
(3) Merckx and De Rosa
(4) EMX 525

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2 comments

  • Rachel Pousson

    Beautiful summary, year by year, of victories and of astounding dominance across all types of racing. I’m only a little sad because, back in the day, I began my racing career in 1975, near the end of Merckx’s career, so I didn’t get to experience the magic of The Cannibal throughout his exploits. Ah well, we cannot control the year of our births, eh? My curiosity is provoked by reading that Merckx left his first pro team (Rik van Looy’s) because of being mocked by teammates – why did they do that? I will research that on my own, for sure! Thank you, Frank, for another enjoyable and educational column. I always am happy to see your blog in my inbox! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

  • Jacek

    In 1980 team marc – IWC – v.r.d. used Eddy Merckx bikes – his riders won 2 TdF stages.

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