Friday File: Champion Drive, Review Eddy Merckx the Cannibal

The Cannibal vs the Phoenix, 1969 Giro.
Merckx was tested positive for a banned
stimulant at Savona and disqualified. 

I was unlucky...

Unlucky not to see Eddy Merckx race, and command a race in his unique way. Fans like myself, born after the Merckx era, and influenced by Hinault/LeMond/Saronni/Bauer, are caught in the endless loop of watching his champion rides on dvd's and YouTube videos. It would be something to have seen him race.

Having read the fascinating Eddy Merckx: the Cannibal by Daniel Friebe, his adversaries were some of cycling's greats; Luis Ocana, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens, Walter Godefroot, Barry Hoban, José Manuel Fuente, Jan Janssens and ...Felice Gimondi. Imagine if Merckx decided to pick another sport to go into, these guys would have reaped incredible rewards and victories.

Many thanks to Guy for this 
insatiable book!

Felice Gimondi rode from 1965 to 1979 and had the champion drive in his first year winning the Tour. And, his drive continued in 1966 winning Paris-Roubaix and Giro di Lombardia. The Phoenix took flite only to have his wings clipped by Merckx. This book shines when the spotlight is on Merckx ...not the winner. His doubts and worries show the vulnerable cannibal as human. What I found most interesting is how others, who were in it deep down and dirty like Gimondi saw him...

Today, I look back and I'm glad that my generation and I had Merckx. I'd have won more without him there, earned more, but life isn't just about money. The respect, the rivalry, the memories... they're all more valuable. Even three million euros more doesn't have the same impact on your life as that stuff, some of the battles I had with Eddy.

We were friends, but it was a beastly rivalry. I never actually got depressed but it was like been beaten with a stick, time after time. He could be cruel, Eddy. People in my family would tell you - he never let me win a race. Never. His engine capacity was superior to ours, he could change pace a lot more easily than I could - he could go from a hundred and twenty heartbeats per minute to two hundred in the blink of an eye. He was faster. There was nothing you could do. And on top of it all, there was this great determination, this application, this rigour. He didn't just have God-given talent. It was that plus his temperament, his character, his determination. Everything he did, he did win with amazing rigour. Where did the hunger come from? Some people have cycling in their heart. It's in your DNA. You can be born here or there, in this family or that family, but that's the bottom line. The passion burns inside.

It's pretty cool to read how Merckx won including the guys he crushed like Gimondi. I can thank Daniel Friebe for getting me closer to the mindset of the insatiable Cannibal and knowing that he was human all along.