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  1. #26
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    His specialty was riding a bike. I think the astounding numbers are less important than the depth of his accomplishments. There have been better sprinters, climbers, and tt specialists. There are plenty of riders that made transitions from winning at one discipline to winning at another. There are grand tour specialists who have managed to win 2-3 in a 12 month period, or strung together many consecutive wins for one grand tour. Others have held the hour record. A very small number of riders have managed to win on the track and the road in the same season. But Merckx is in a class by himself in having done all of the above.

  2. #27
    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    It's impossible to compare eras though. Merckx was awesome, of this there is no doubt. But there also wasn't the athletic depth that exists today. Take the best guys today and there are a host of guys who are their equal or pretty darn close. Same dynamic exists in many sports. One can't excel at a variety of disciplines due to the advent of specialization.

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
    It's impossible to compare eras though. Merckx was awesome, of this there is no doubt. But there also wasn't the athletic depth that exists today. Take the best guys today and there are a host of guys who are their equal or pretty darn close. Same dynamic exists in many sports. One can't excel at a variety of disciplines due to the advent of specialization.
    Yes, it was a different time. I don't think anyone could do those things again unless something drastically changes about cycling. Marianne Vos is making a pretty good go of it, but then women's cycling is probably some years behind the athletic depth you see on the men's side. I have to think that Merckx couldn't have won so consistently by athleticism alone. If you ask what particular skill was it that set him apart (back to the original question), maybe it was an unusual level of mental toughness, a greater capacity for suffering. So today he might win fewer sprints, tt's and high mountain stages, but run up some incredible win totals nonetheless.

  4. #29
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
    It's impossible to compare eras though. Merckx was awesome, of this there is no doubt. But there also wasn't the athletic depth that exists today. Take the best guys today and there are a host of guys who are their equal or pretty darn close. Same dynamic exists in many sports. One can't excel at a variety of disciplines due to the advent of specialization.
    Up to a point. I agree that one can't make meaningful comparisons between eras. But what distinguishes Merckx (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Coppi and Hinault) is the extent of their superiority over their contemporaries. Merckx was untouchable, he raced three times a week during the season and in his best years won half of those he started. And looked at from a European perspective I don't think it is true to say that cycling in the 60s and 70s lacked the athletic depth that it has today. In Belgium, France, the Netherlands and to a degree, in Spain and Italy, cycling was massive, it was a route out of poverty for tough kids in the way that boxing was in the same era in the States. There are an awful lot of names from that time that still rank with the best, and Merckx crushed them repeatedly. I think we can take it that someone with his gifts and determination would be superior in any generation.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  5. #30
    lead on macduff!
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    crushing souls and eating men

  6. #31
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    Up to a point. I agree that one can't make meaningful comparisons between eras. But what distinguishes Merckx (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Coppi and Hinault) is the extent of their superiority over their contemporaries. Merckx was untouchable, he raced three times a week during the season and in his best years won half of those he started. And looked at from a European perspective I don't think it is true to say that cycling in the 60s and 70s lacked the athletic depth that it has today. In Belgium, France, the Netherlands and to a degree, in Spain and Italy, cycling was massive, it was a route out of poverty for tough kids in the way that boxing was in the same era in the States. There are an awful lot of names from that time that still rank with the best, and Merckx crushed them repeatedly. I think we can take it that someone with his gifts and determination would be superior in any generation.
    I think his determination was what made him unique. Look at the 1975 TDF. Badly injured and also attacked by a fan, but he did concede until halfway through the final stage, and that after he launched an attack that caused panic. Or the year Ocana almost won. 10 minutes back and Merckx attacked. No protecting a podium spot for Merckx.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  7. #32
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
    It's impossible to compare eras though. Merckx was awesome, of this there is no doubt. But there also wasn't the athletic depth that exists today. Take the best guys today and there are a host of guys who are their equal or pretty darn close. Same dynamic exists in many sports. One can't excel at a variety of disciplines due to the advent of specialization.
    Perhaps. But until he did it tteh accomplishments of Merckx were thought to be impossible. Rather like Coppi who when winning the Tour and Giro was thought to be impossible not only won both but walked away with the KOM in both also! (No sprinters jersey back then.

    Fast forward to Merckx. Now lets look at the all around raod racer. Lets take the a nice sloce at 9 important events. The 3 tours, the 5 monuments and the Worlds Championship. Could anyone match Coppi and win 4 in one year? Of could anyone ever win 3 or more for a second time? Maybe, perhaps even both. BUT no one would have thought what Merckx did was possible. 3 or more 7 years in a row including 4 twice and 5 twice.

    To this day no one else has matched Coppi with 4 in one year and no one has ever gotten 3 more than once, save Merckx.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  8. #33
    自転車整備士 oldskoolwrench's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
    crushing souls and eating men
    You forgot to add, "... leaving their shattered, demoralized remains convulsing on the bitumen behind."

    Gotta put that Continental, flowery, melodramatic sounding prose in there somewhere, as if the Phil was uttering the phrase himself...

  9. #34
    Lance Hater Laggard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenji666 View Post
    Doping, I mean, not getting caught
    Good to know nothing here has changed.
    i may have overreacted

  10. #35
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    If you read enough you'll probably realise that "winning" is the best answer to your question. When it came to cycling he did not specialise, he won everything.

  11. #36
    starting pistol means war YMCA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 900aero View Post
    If you read enough you'll probably realise that "winning" is the best answer to your question. When it came to cycling he did not specialise, he won everything.
    correct
    end of thread

  12. #37
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 900aero View Post
    If you read enough you'll probably realise that "winning" is the best answer to your question. When it came to cycling he did not specialise, he won everything.
    I disagree. It wasn't just winning. At least not like most pros. If just winning was his goal stage 17 of the 1969 TDF would have played out very differently. Perhaps with Merckx winning a sprint between 8 or fewer cyclists.

    Instead stage 17 insured that if he finished he would win the GC and KOM, that his team would win the Team competition and that he was the favorite to win the Points and most combative competitions.

    Any other rider would have been protecting a 6 minute GC lead. Merckx went out on what ended up a 140 km solo break and put almost 8 more minutes on 7 more riders and 15 or more on everyone else.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  13. #38
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    I disagree. It wasn't just winning. At least not like most pros. If just winning was his goal stage 17 of the 1969 TDF would have played out very differently. Perhaps with Merckx winning a sprint between 8 or fewer cyclists.

    Instead stage 17 insured that if he finished he would win the GC and KOM, that his team would win the Team competition and that he was the favorite to win the Points and most combative competitions.

    Any other rider would have been protecting a 6 minute GC lead. Merckx went out on what ended up a 140 km solo break and put almost 8 more minutes on 7 more riders and 15 or more on everyone else.
    In the biography that the OP is reading, the conjecture is that Merckx was driven by an almost neurotic fear of failure. No lead was enough to make him feel secure, so despite being in the lead he continued to try to distance his rivals. There's a wonderful quote from one of his domestiques, who says that working for Merckx was hard because he insisted that the team rode constantly at the head of the race. But they didn't mind that much, because Eddy was so strong that he often ended up doing most of the work himself.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    ...working for Merckx was hard because he insisted that the team rode constantly at the head of the race. But they didn't mind that much, because Eddy was so strong that he often ended up doing most of the work himself.
    That's funny! But neurotic behavior doesn't normally coincide with a happy, well adjusted life after retirement. I'm sure that thousands of journalists over the years have asked him questions trying to get a window into what makes him tick. My theory is that he's just exceptionally stubborn, and probably wondered why his rivals gave up so easily.

  15. #40
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprince View Post
    That's funny! But neurotic behavior doesn't normally coincide with a happy, well adjusted life after retirement. I'm sure that thousands of journalists over the years have asked him questions trying to get a window into what makes him tick. My theory is that he's just exceptionally stubborn, and probably wondered why his rivals gave up so easily.
    What makes you think he had a happy contented life after retirement? My impression is that it took him many years to come to terms with life post-cycling. It's only relatively recently that he has looked truly comfortable in his own skin. In my opinion, of course...

    And I don't disagree about the stubbornness. His capacity for suffering is legendary.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    I disagree. It wasn't just winning. At least not like most pros. If just winning was his goal stage 17 of the 1969 TDF would have played out very differently. Perhaps with Merckx winning a sprint between 8 or fewer cyclists.

    Instead stage 17 insured that if he finished he would win the GC and KOM, that his team would win the Team competition and that he was the favorite to win the Points and most combative competitions.

    Any other rider would have been protecting a 6 minute GC lead. Merckx went out on what ended up a 140 km solo break and put almost 8 more minutes on 7 more riders and 15 or more on everyone else.
    So rather than specialising in "winning," he specialised in "utter domination of the entire sport."

  17. #42
    Senior Member 99Klein's Avatar
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    Eddy himself said it was his ability to suffer.
    When you argue with an idiot, from a bystanders point of view, it may be hard to discern which is the idiot. (dis·cern: Verb - Perceive or recognize)

  18. #43
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    In the biography that the OP is reading, the conjecture is that Merckx was driven by an almost neurotic fear of failure. No lead was enough to make him feel secure, so despite being in the lead he continued to try to distance his rivals. There's a wonderful quote from one of his domestiques, who says that working for Merckx was hard because he insisted that the team rode constantly at the head of the race. But they didn't mind that much, because Eddy was so strong that he often ended up doing most of the work himself.
    There is something else. Merckx used all the tools to win. That included having a teammate cover a break. His teammates have at least a half dozen and I think close to a dozen stage wins in the TDF because of this. (Huge advantage to be on the team of the leader/ gc favorite as you are not expected to work). A few days in yellow for teammates also.

    Merckx as also known to compete in local races because if he was there all the prize money was doubled. Helping out other riders.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  19. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    What makes you think he had a happy contented life after retirement? My impression is that it took him many years to come to terms with life post-cycling. It's only relatively recently that he has looked truly comfortable in his own skin. In my opinion, of course...

    And I don't disagree about the stubbornness. His capacity for suffering is legendary.
    There have been countless athletes and other celebrities that become very public, and often tragic, train wrecks because their will to succeed was driven by some neurosis or deep seated psychological problem. Those people tend to self destruct before retirement, or very shortly thereafter. Eddy Merckx doesn't seem to be one of those people. So an "almost neurotic fear of failure" doesn't quite fit, in fact I don't see any evidence of fear at all. Happy and content is impossible to say, but he certainly never appeared to be unhappy and poorly adjusted.

  20. #45
    Senior Member roadwarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    One indicia of Merckx all around ability is that he won all the jerseys, green , yellow and polka dot in the same TDF.
    I'd bet money that will never happen again.
    "Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart, but considerably more successful."
    Bret Stephens, WSJ

  21. #46
    Senior Member roadwarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprince View Post
    There have been countless athletes and other celebrities that become very public, and often tragic, train wrecks because their will to succeed was driven by some neurosis or deep seated psychological problem. Those people tend to self destruct before retirement, or very shortly thereafter. Eddy Merckx doesn't seem to be one of those people. So an "almost neurotic fear of failure" doesn't quite fit, in fact I don't see any evidence of fear at all. Happy and content is impossible to say, but he certainly never appeared to be unhappy and poorly adjusted.
    I used to live not far from him. Normal house, normal neighborhood.

    It's the background. All the really good Belgian riders came from Flanders, the industrial part of Belgium and it's either race a bike or factory work or worse. I am exaggertaing a bit, but when I was there most of the guys I rode with had dropped out of school, eighth or ninth grade...point was at some point schooling mattered less than getting a job and bringing home money. So you have a pretty humble guy with a basic upbringing in a society that valued very hard work.

    But he was a one in a million talent. He just rode people into the dust. I was priviliged to watch it happen a few times.

    Another point...back then riders rode a lot of races because they had to...there was not much money in racing and so you rode to make money to live. Like so many other sports, this one has become a lot more specialized.
    "Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart, but considerably more successful."
    Bret Stephens, WSJ

  22. #47
    Senior Member roadwarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    What was his specialty? Amphetamines
    He was busted for Reactivan in 1969 at the Giro. He denied it. The doping info was released to the public/press before the team or Merckx got it.

    See...it's happened before.

    Funny thing...just like now his fans reacted against the testers.

    Amphetamines were banned in 1965...now they are like candy compared the the stuff they've used recently.

    Point...not much has changed.
    "Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart, but considerably more successful."
    Bret Stephens, WSJ

  23. #48
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadwarrior View Post
    I'd bet money that will never happen again.
    I'll take that bet.

    But only because with never I never have to pay off.

    That and because things do change.

    Honestly just winning all 3 on one occasion in the TDF vastly understates what Merckx did. Save his first Giro and perhaps his last TDF Merckx was right up there in every Grand tour he rode for all 3 jerseys. He won all 3 in one TDF, he won all 3 in one Giro, In the only Vuelta he rode he won GC and Points and was second in the KOM by 4 points.

    Others may match any single feat, sooner or later everything goes just right for one race. But with Merckx it was unless thigns go badly wrong he was going to win the GC and if things went just a little right he was going to pick up more.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  24. #49
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    "Take this jersey. You earned it. It's yours."

    All the above, but I always liked this^ aspect of Merckx too. Here he is symbolically giving the green jersey to Cyrille Guimard, who had to abandon in the 1972 TdF and who could not hide his emotion here. Merckx also refused to immediately don the yellow after Ocaña's fall in '71. For such a cannibal, Merckx was a real sport. It's hard not to idolize the guy.

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