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Eddy Merckx and the World Hour Record

One hour. Sixty minutes. Thirty-six hundred seconds. For most of us, this span of time represents the length of lunch or the duration of a favorite television show. But in cycling, one hour is the partition between being great and becoming the greatest. Eddy Merckx understood this. He knew he needed to break the world hour record.

So in 1972, during what was arguably his most successful year of racing, Merckx decided to make his run at cycling most hallowed mark. Like the previous record holder, Merckx settled on the velodrome in Mexico City as sight for his attempt. Because it was situated at high altitude (7,500 feet above the sea) there would be less air resistance, but also less air to breathe.

To prepare Merckx holed up in the air-tight bowels of a naval shipyard in western Belgium. The idea was to restrict the amount of available oxygen, thus training his body for the thin air of Mexico City.

“As word of the training spread, the record became a matter of national interest,” recounts Merckx 525. “Even Leopold III, former king of Belgium, would accompany Merckx to Mexico City.”

On October 25, Merckx strode out to the infield of the velodrome and mounted his fixed gear track bike. “Then he crosses himself. He knows that he is about to embark on a painful trip. What will be the outcome? Fame or failure.”

Afterwards, Merckx reflected on his sixty-minute ride. “Never before had I had such pain,” he said. “And I have never felt such pain again.”

As for the record, he smashed it.

Merckx 525 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

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Eddy Merckx and the Savona Bomb

Just like modern day professional bike racing, cycling’s golden era was not without its doping controversies. Even the great Eddy Merckx himself was at one point tainted in controversy. Yet even today, questions remain as to whether the man known as The Cannibal had succumbed to the sport’s dark side, or was he the victim of a malicious conspiracy? Merckx 525  delves into this murky affair, an event known as the Savona Bomb.

At the time, June 1969, the Belgian great was dominating the Giro d’Italia, having won four stages while taking a comfortable lead in the general classification. But then the newsflash landed like a bomb: “Merckx dopato” blurted the Italian broadcasting service. The cycling world was shocked. Merckx, firmly in possession of the pink leader’s jersey, was booted from the race; his participation in the upcoming Tour de France also in doubt. The infraction was a urine test that returned positive for a banned stimulant.

“I went completely to pieces,” declares Merckx.

The No. 2 rider in the ranking refused to wear the leader’s jersey the next day, but the damage was done. What would have almost certainly been Giro d’Italia win No. 2 for Merckx was instead washed away.

Was it sabotage or a mafia trick as some hypothesized? Merckx certainly thought so. “Don’t tell me anything about the Italians,” he said. “They cant be trusted. I should have never have come here. I’ve won too many times here.”

Of course Merckx did go back, and by the end of his career he’d won the Italian national tour a record-tying five times. No one will ever know for sure if that mark should be six.

Merckx 525 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

Eddy Merckx and The Conquest

“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 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

Eddy Merckx Off the Bike

The greatness of Eddy Merckx is well established. The Belgian strongman won the Tour de France five times. Same goes for the Giro d’Italia and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Name a bike race and Merckx almost certainly won it at least once, probably more. He is the greatest cyclist of all time. No argument.

Thus the simple yet telling title of the first biography fully authorized by the man himself: Merck 525, as in a never-to-be-equaled 525 career wins. But like Merckx himself, the greatness of this coffee table-sized tome is not simply to recount athletic achievement. Wikipedia does a fine job of that. Instead Merckx 525 provides a unique pictorial window into all facets of his triumphant life.

Among the book’s best material are the lifestyle shots both before and after Merckx found fame. Indeed, the very first image is a simple photo of Merckx as a young boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old.

There he stands on the raised pedestal of a rooftop somewhere in his hometown of Sint-Pieters-Woluwe. At the time, it was probably nothing more than a child captured in play. Yet there is deep irony in this first “podium pose.” Despite the nearby ledge, Merckx stands tall and confident, like he belonged there.

Further into Merckx 525, you’re invited into the receiving line at his marriage sweetheart Claudine.

Merckx greets well wishers with his handsome, confident smile. A white-gloved usher directs traffic. Bicycle wheels are lifted into the air, replacing the traditional tossing of rice.

A page earlier there’s that wry smile again, as Merckx, blessed with secret-agent good looks and the clothes to match, strides into the airport, a beaming Claudine by his side.

These are just some among many images that transport us back to a time when Merckx ruled — on and off the bike.

Merckx 525 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

Eddy Merckx and His Early Victories

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 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

Praise for Merckx 525

Merckx 525 is a unique collection of exclusive photographs, including some that even I had not seen before. It is the only work authorized by me…and the first truly complete record of my accomplishments.” — Eddy Merckx

“A luxurious photo-biography of cycling’s greatest champion…Full of evidence of the Cannibal’s insatiable appetite for victory.” — Wall Street Journal

“As a memento to a career we won’t see again, Merckx 525 is worth every stinkin’ penny… The real joy of this book was a chance to feast on images from the early part of Merckx’ career…Arranged chronologically, one can imagine the book as the ultimate family photo album of the star-shined favorite son.” — Red Kite Prayer

“Sumptuous, luxurious, and magnificent…A triumph. Each of its 221 pages simply scream out loud to satisfy the senses…Modern cycle sport is particularly well-served by some excellent photographers, but the imagery contained within Merckx 525 is exemplary.” — The Washing Machine Post

“One of the most beautiful coffee table books (cycling or not) to come around in a very, very long time…The images are incredibly compelling, layered and sometimes hauntingly quiet.” — Peloton

“If you relish the racing history that has helped define the sport, Merckx 525 should be a ‘must have’. The variety of seldom-seen photos that illustrate the book will take your breath away.” — Road Bike Action

“Whether in beautifully judged black & white or shockingly real period colour film, Merckx’s foe-crushing drive glows from almost every photograph.” — Brooks England

“As one leafs through this lovely book, the string of victories becomes overwhelming…It is wonderful to see Merckx in his heyday, with the eternal grin and the pure joy in his face as he crossed the finish line first.” — PezcyclingNews

“Visually stunning…[Merckx 525] delivers some incredible images from various periods of Merckx’s career. Each image is simply dripping in nostalgia…” — Podium Café

“Beautiful and inspirational…Luscious photos.” — Adventure Cycling

Merckx 525 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 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.

Order Merckx 525 now at your local bookstore or bike shop or from these online retailers:

Coming Soon to the U.S.: Merckx 525

Merckx 525 book cover Merckx 525 is coming soon to the U.S. Please follow this site, like our page on Facebook, or join our e-mail list so you’ll see future announcements.