“Cannibal” is not a nickname that conjures images of grace and respect. And indeed there was a certain mercilessness that characterized the reign of Eddy Merckx. His will — and perhaps need — to win was and always will be unmatched in cycling, and perhaps sport in general. Yet when it came time for a young, but supremely powerful Merckx to ascend the throne, he did so with dignity.
For most observers the official succession of power from one patron to the next occurred at 1969’s Paris-Nice stage race. At the time, the sport’s biggest star was Frenchman Jacques Anquetil, a sharp-featured Frenchman with five Tour de France titles atop his legendary race resume.
But Anquetil was on the down slope of greatness, not a good place to be when the day’s stage was an uphill time trial. Entering this final day of racing, Merckx sat atop the overall standings, with Anquetil, once a renown time trialist, just a few seconds behind. The final victor was still in doubt. Or so everyone thought.
Instead Merckx crushed all comers, taking the stage win and the overall title. But the big news of that day is on display in a telling image within the historical pages of Merckx 525. With just over 300 meters to go, the young Belgian has caught the aging Frenchman, ushering in a new era in cycling. But Merckx is not brash or boastful.
“Instead, in the last kilometer he hesitates for a moment,” reads Merckx 525. “Merckx does not dare look Anquetil in the face when he passes him. Two destinies cross.”
But humility remains. “If it hadn’t been a race for the victory,” says Merckx. “I would have stayed behind him.”
Merckx 525 celebrates the unmatchable career of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist ever and the most dominant athlete of the 20th century. Merckx 525 is the first book authorized by Eddy Merckx and the only book he says offers a truly complete record of his bike-racing career. In its pages, you’ll find photographs never published outside France, Italy, and Belgium.