Winning bike races is hard. Unlike team sports, the day’s winner is never an either-or proposition. There’s no home team and away team. There are multiple teams, 22 at the most recent Tour de France. Nine riders per team, 198 individuals on the road.
Not all of them are chasing glory every day. But many are: 30, 40, 50 perhaps. All of them thinking that if things go just right, why not me? Why cant I be the winner today? And some will win. Maybe not that day, but some day. Luck will eventually fall their way.
Then there are the true winners, men who need no luck. They wake up thinking, I will win today because that’s what I do. These men are cycling’s exception, and the exception among these men is Eddy Merckx. Except in the earliest years of his career, Merckx knew he would be the winner more often than not.
This transformation from hopeful to willful plays out magically on the pages of Merckx 525. On October 1, 1961, the then 16-year-old snapped the proverbial tape for the first time, triumphing at a junior race in Petit-Enghien, Belgium. In the post-race podium photo, Merckx’s beaming smile is one of surprise. The taste of victory is unfamiliar to him, but he clearly likes it.
“Then in 1962, the ball began to roll in earnest,” reads Merckx 525. “Suddenly he won four of the five first races of the year. During the Easter holidays, he decided to terminate his studies early and concentrate on cycling. His parents agreed. Merckx knew what he wanted: to race to win.”
Flash forward to September 5, 1964, and Merckx, now 19, has just been crowned amateur world champion. He’s basking in the glow of victory, while surrounded by fans and media.
“He has earned his world title in a way he later makes his own, by wearing down opposition, by breaking away at the drop of a hat and so achieving a strong selection, and finally by going at it hammer and tongs again… Now Merckx is much in demand by the pro teams. He has a fresh, strong appearance. He has the temperament, the daring, and the talent to lead a new generation of top cyclists.”
Now the taste is familiar. Now the surprise is gone. Merckx is a winner, a true winner, and he knows it.
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.