Merckx : Half Man Half Bike

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by limerickman, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    +10^googol . There are many more things going on in competitive cycling than doping, especially when discussing a true cycling hard man like Merckx. Not only was he so far beyond other racers in competition, his training was far beyond his competitors I think. Hell, I don't know how many racers today could hold up to the volume and intensity of riding that Merckx did for training. Of course 525 wins on the road is astounding, but it should be remembered that he also won 17 six-day events.....and that was when six-day events were, uhm, a bit more challenging and bit more sleep depriving than they are now.
     


  2. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I've reached 1969 in this books. Merckx phenomenal season.
    Probably the greatest year for one single rider in the history of cycling

    TDF 1969 (Overall winner + 6 stages + Points winner + KOM winner + Combination winner+ Best young rider).
    Milan San Remo winner, Tour of Flanders winner, Liege Bastogne Liege winner, Paris Nice winner.

    Having moved to an Italian team, Merckx preparation began to change. He lost weight and the coach at Faema who had worked with Fausto Coppi was there to guide Eddy Merckx.
    Of course 1969 saw the Savona incident (see here http://cyclismas.com/2012/04/the-secret-of-savona/).

    1969 season and his racing will never be matched I think.

    More to follow.
     
  3. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    The first twelve I heard of was by Claude Criquielion, machined in his home shop and used to escape the peloton in a downwind stretch of a Belgian classic. That would have been in the 1980s.

    Cycle Sport cites Bernard Hinault as using the first 12 in the 1983 La Fleche Wallone. Here's the link: http://www.cyclesportmag.com/features/iconic-places-the-mur-de-huy/ . Who can be sure? The article says he had a 39/23 to climb the Mur, but anyone who was alive back then knows that Campagnolo Record only went down to 42. Well, there are reports of 41s, but I've never seen one.
     
  4. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    Definitely taller than average for the period, like Coppi and Moser. Gimondi was taller, but Merckx was heavier. He moved uphill damned well for a big guy.
     
  5. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    It's entirely possible, a lot of this stuff is passed from ear to ear on the park bench while swimming in lactate.

    This was an exerpt from a synopsis of The Rider, an excellent book btw if one has had a chance to read...

    The Rider, first published in 1978 (but wasn’t translated into English until 2002) follows our hero Tim Krabbé during a 137 km race in The Tour de Mount Aigounal. During that 137 kilometers Krabbé rides his way into both delirium and metaphor and all the way back. Providing a blow by blow account of each kilometer, going through the thoughts, emotions and mental state of The Rider, this book travels through a stream on conscience blur of what cycling can be and what this race could/can be. The dreams, aspirations, training that go into bike racing are splayed out across 150 pages. Written as only a true insider could do, the details are as familiar as they are humorous, such as the racer nicknamed le douze in honor of the fact that he rides with a 12-tooth cog just because Eddy Merckx had one.
     
  6. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    +1 Bob.

    For a big man he was an exceptionally good climber.
     
  7. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Thanks Bob.

    That is a very interesting link that you supplied and very informative too.

    Personally I never ride anything other than 53x12 all the time /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
     
  8. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Slowly making my way through the Merckx biography.
    Fotheringham has uncovered some interesting stuff about Merckx.

    As his domination of the sport became more prevalent, Merckx achievements and his notoriety brought bad press and fraught relations,
    Within Belgian cycling there was a lot of animosity toward Merckx from Van Looy, Goodefroot and somewhat less from DeVlaeminck.
    Van Looy hated the fact that Merckx took his crown as No1 Belgian cyclist. Goodefroot and Merckx were absolute rivals on the road each vying to be Belgiums No1 rider.
    DeVlaemincks attitude seems to be tempered by the fact that he actually managed to beat Merckx a few times whereas Goodefroot didn't. Of course both of them were crushed in terms of general
    results.
    The book states that Merckx was never really regarded as a true Flandarian rider. The be all and end all race for the Flandarian is the Tour of Flanders. Forget the TDF, Giro, Vuelta. Flanders is where it is at as regards the true Flandarian.

    The media bad press came about because Merckx dominance never seemed to register emotionally with Merckx. His expression was fixed whether he won or lost. The cycling journalists of that time wondered why all this success never seemed to make Merckx happy. When he won, he seemed to not experience joy. He accepted each win in a matter of fact fashion. It got to the stage where Merckx losing a race in a season became the story. The Belgian press were very proud of Merckx. BUt the French/Spanish/Italian press were not sympathetic. One journalist referred to Merckx as being like a bored God. The Italian press referred to him as il mostro.

    Merckx mother said that her son was always a shy person. She stopped asking him to man the counter of their shop because he wasn't at ease dealing with customers for example.
    Merckx himself says that his own father was a quiet man who remained reserved all his life. Merckx says that even when he knew he was much better than anyone else, he felt the need not to express this feeling.

    Interestingly his team mates and mechanics interviewed now, all say that Merckx was a very easy man to deal with. The mechanics say that Merckx always said "please and thank you" even a the height of his powers. His team mates talk about a man who was always prepared to reward team loyalty.

    I'll post more as I read it!
     
  9. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I've finished reading the book and here is what I have read in summarised for :

    Merckx did the Giro/Vuelta double : in them days, the Vuelta used to be staged before the Giro, with a 7 day gap between both races. In 1973 Merckx won both tours (with numerous stage wins in each).

    Merckx did the Giro/Tour of Switzerland/TDF treble in 1973 : In those days the Tour of Switzerland was a 10 day tour.Winning the Giro, Merckx started the Tour of Switzerland three days later which he won and with 5 days rest then started the TDF which he won as well. He also won numerous stages in each race.

    Guillaume Michels was Merckx confidant and general assistant throughout Merckx career : in the book Michels says when not racing, he would be at Merckx house at 8.00am on his motorbike.
    He would ride the motorbik throughout the Belgian countryside with Merckx cycling behind him. Michels tells the author that they literally cycled for hours and covered hundreds of thousands of miles throughout their partnership. Michels tells the author that the method of training allowed Merckx to cover huge distances without being exposed to the full effect of the winds that afflict that region.
    Michels says that a lot of their training was done in deepest Belgium. No warm weather training. Sun/Rain/Wind/Hail/Sleet/Snow if not racing, Merckx was normally out training in Belgium.

    The author concludes that ultimately Merckx was racing against himself. Merckx probably wasn't racing against his opponents because, as the author says, invariably Merckx for most of his career wasn't aware of time gaps of his stages wins. The author concludes that Merckx really only regarded his opponents as collateral damage in the battle between him and his struggle to win.

    Merckx domestic life seems to be pretty normal given his status and his achievements : His wife, Claudine, is the daughter of another professional rider. By all accounts, Claudine is a pretty formidable character in her own right. From time to time she did take the lead in some of Merckx commercial activities. In terms of racing, she said that Eddy was like a coiled spring before each race. For the first year of their marriage, Eddy was so quiet that she assumed that he was this way because she had done something wrong, only to realise that Merckx was concentrating and thinking solely about the upcoming race.
    Claudine and Eddy had 2 children : Sabine and Axel. Eddy has grandkids now and he gets particular joy from being with his grandkids.

    Asked about his life and his ability : Merckx gives all credit to his parents for the gifts that he has inherited. He says that his childhood was blissful and that his father Jules and his mother Jenny instilled in him good values. These values include working hard, being modest and most importantly not letting people down.
    The physical gifts that he inherited he attributes to his hardworking ancestors who were involved in hard manual work. His physiological makeup has been studied and examined. He has built up a relationship with various research institutes and he allows them to examine him in order to measure how his system is and the effect of ageing etc.

    In summary the book is an excellent analysis of Merckx career. The race results and career achievements are one aspect of the man. The achievements are mindboggling by any standards.
    As the author says how fate managed to put that brain in to that body to make the greatest cyclist ever is the ultimate question.

    I'd strong recommend this read.
     
  10. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    "Collateral damage." I like that.

    To me, Merckx's career is just the meeting of character, preparation, and least of all, genes. Motorpacing through the Belgian countryside in all conditions says a lot.
     
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