|Birth Day:||June 17, 1945|
|Birth Place:||Meensel-Kiezegem, Belgium|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
He won his first race on October 1, 1961, as an amateur rider, not long after he began racing competitively.
Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx was born in Meensel-Kiezegem, Brabant, Belgium on 17 June 1945 to Jules Merckx and Jenny Pittomvils. Merckx was the first-born of the family. In September 1946, the family moved to Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, in Brussels, Belgium in order to take over a grocery store that had been up for lease. In May 1948, Jenny gave birth to twins: a boy, Michel, and a girl, Micheline. As a child Eddy was hyperactive and was always playing outside.
In summer 1961, Merckx bought his first racing license and competed in his first official race a month after he turned sixteen, coming in sixth place. He rode in twelve more races before winning his first, at Petit-Enghien, on 1 October 1961. In the winter following his first victory, he trained with former racer Félicien Vervaecke at the local velodrome. Merckx won his second victory on 11 March 1962 in a kermis race. Merckx competed in 55 races during the 1962 calendar year; as he devoted more time to cycling, his grades at school began to decline. After winning the Belgian amateur road race title, Merckx declined an offer from his school's headmaster to have his exams postponed, and dropped out of school. He finished the season with 23 victories to his name.
Merckx turned professional on 29 April 1965 when he signed with Rik Van Looy's Belgian team, Solo–Superia. He won his first race in Vilvoorde, beating Emile Daems. On 1 August, Merckx finished second in the Belgian national championships, which qualified him for the men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships. Raphaël Géminiani, the manager of the Bic cycling team, approached Merckx at the event and offered him 2,500 francs a month to join the team the following season. Merckx chose to sign; however, since he was a minor the contract was invalid.
Merckx officially began dating Claudine Acou in April 1965. Acou was a 21-year-old teacher and daughter of the trainer of the national amateur team. Merckx asked her father for permission to marry her between track races. On 5 December 1967 Merckx married Acou after four years of courtship. She would often handle the press for her husband, who was shy. Claudine gave birth to their first child, Sabrina, on 14 February 1970. Merckx skipped a team training camp to be with Claudine for Sabrina's birth. Claudine later gave birth to a son, Axel, who also became a professional cyclist. Merckx was brought up speaking Flemish, but was taught French in school.
In March 1966, Merckx entered his first major stage race as a professional rider, the Paris–Nice. He took the race lead for a single stage before losing it to Jacques Anquetil and eventually coming in fourth overall. Milan–San Remo, his first participation in one of cycling's Monuments, was the next event on the calendar for Merckx. There, he succeeded in staying with the main field as the race entered the final climb of the Poggio. He attacked on the climb and reduced the field to a group of eleven, himself included. Merckx was advised by his manager to hold off on sprinting full-out to the finish line until as late as possible. Three other riders reached the line with him; Merckx, however, beat them in the sprint. In the following weeks, he raced the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix, the most important cobbled classics; in the former he crashed and in the latter he had a punctured tire. At the 1966 UCI Road World Championships he finished twelfth in the road race after suffering a cramp in the closing kilometers. He finished 1966 season with a total of 20 wins, including his first stage race win at the Tour of Morbihan.
Merckx opened the 1969 season with victories at the Vuelta a Levante and the Paris–Nice overall, as well as stages in each of the races. On 30 March 1969 Merckx earned his first major victory of the 1969 calendar with his win at the Tour of Flanders. On a rainy day that featured strong winds, he attacked first on the Oude Kwaremont, but a puncture nullified any gains he was able to establish. He made a move on the Kapelmuur and was followed by a few riders. As the wind shifted from a crosswind to a headwind with close to seventy kilometers left to go, Merckx increased the pace and rode solo to victory. The seventeen days after the Tour of Flanders saw Merckx win nine times. He won Milan–San Remo by descending the Poggio at high speed. Merckx saw victory again in mid-April at the Liège–Bastogne–Liège when he attacked with seventy kilometers remaining in the pouring rain.
After the scandal at the previous year's Giro d'Italia, Merckx was unwilling to return to the race in 1970. His entry to the race was contingent upon all doping controls being sent to a lab in Rome to be tested, rather than being tested at the finish like the year before. He started the race and won the second stage, but four days later showed signs of weakness with his knee as he was dropped twice while in the mountains. However the next day, Merckx attacked on the final climb into the city of Brentonico to win the stage and take the lead. He won the stage nine individual time trial by almost two minutes over the second-place finisher, expanding his lead significantly. Merckx did not win another stage, but expanded his lead a little more before the race's conclusion.
Merckx has been regarded by many as the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time. He rode well in the Grand Tours and in the one-day classics. He was a very good time trialist and climber. In addition, Merckx showed great ability to race on the track. He was known for racing style that consisted of attacking constantly, which came to be known as "la course en tête". Attacking for Merckx was the best form of defence. He would spend a day in a breakaway and then make another significant attack the following day. Despite his constant attacking, he would occasionally ride in a defensive mindset, particularly when racing the Giro and facing Fuente. Merckx entered over 1,800 races during his career and won a total of 525. Due to his dominance in the sport some cycling historians refer to the period in which he raced as the "Merckx Era." During his professional career, he won 445 of the 1585 races he entered. Between the years of 1967 and 1977 Merckx raced between 111 and 151 races each season. In 1971, he raced 120 times and won 54 of the events, the most races any cyclist has won in a season. Merckx admits that he was the best of his generation, but insists it's not practical to compare across generations.
The UCI Road World Championships were held in Barcelona, Spain in 1973 and contested on the Montjuich circuit. During the road race, Merckx attacked with around one hundred kilometers left. His move was marked by Freddy Maertens, Gimondi, and Ocaña. Merckx attacked on the final lap, but was reeled in by the three riders. It came down to a sprint between the four, of which Merckx came in last and Gimondi in first. Following the road race, Merckx won his first Paris–Brussels and Grand Prix des Nations. He won both legs of À travers Lausanne, as well as the Giro di Lombardia, but a doping positive disqualified him. He closed the season with over fifty victories to his credit.
He is one of the three riders to win all five 'Monuments of Cycling' (i.e., Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and the Giro di Lombardia), the other two being Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck. He finished his career with nineteen victories across the monuments, more than any other rider and eight more than the rider with the second most. He won twenty-eight classic races, with Paris–Tours being the only race he did not win. The closest he came to victory in the race was sixth in the 1973 race. A lesser Belgian rider, Noël van Tyghem, won Paris–Tours in 1972 and said: "Between us, I and Eddy Merckx have won every classic that can be won. I won Paris–Tours, Merckx won all the rest."
On 8 November 1973, it was announced that Merckx had tested positive for norephedrine after winning the Giro di Lombardia a month earlier. Upon learning of the first test being positive in later October, he had a counter-analysis performed which also turned up positive. The drug was present in a cough medicine that the Molteni doctor, Dr. Cavalli, prescribed to him. Merckx was disqualified from the race and the victory was awarded to second-place finisher Gimondi. In addition, Merckx was given a month suspension and fined 150,000 lira. Merckx admitted his fault in taking the medicine but said that the name norephedrine was not on the bottle of cough syrup he used.
The 1974 season saw Merckx fail to win a spring classic for the first time in his career, in part due to him suffering from various illnesses during the early months. Pneumonia forced him to quit racing for a month and forced him to enter the Giro d'Italia in poor form. He lost time early in the race to Fuente, who took the race's first mountainous stage. Merckx gained time on Fuente in the race's only time trial. Merckx attacked from two hundred kilometers out two days later in a stage that was plagued by horrendous weather. Fuente lost ten minutes to Merckx, who became the race leader. The twentieth stage had a summit finish to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Fuente and Gianbattista Baronchelli attacked on the climb, while Merckx was unable to match their accelerations. He finished the stage only to see his lead shrink to twelve seconds over Baronchelli. He held on to that lead until the race's conclusion, winning his fifth Giro d'Italia.
On 8 May 1977, Merckx, along with several other riders, tested positive for pemoline, a stimulant in Stimul, at La Flèche Wallonne. The group of riders was charged by the Belgian cycling federation, and the riders were each given a 24,000 pesetas fine and a one-month suspension. Initially, Merckx announced his intention to appeal the penalty, saying he only took substances that were not on the banned list. Merckx's eighth-place finish in the race was voided. Years later, Merckx admitted he did take a banned substance, citing that he was wrong to have trusted a doctor.
In January, the department store C&A announced that they would sponsor a new team for Merckx after their owner met Merckx at a football game. His plan for the season was to race one last Tour de France and then ride several smaller races for appearances. He raced a total of five races in the 1978 calendar. His last victory was in a track event, an omnium in Zürich, on 10 February 1978 with Patrick Sercu. His first road race came in the Grand Prix de Montauroux on 19 February. Merckx came to the front of the race and put in a large effort before swinging off and quitting the race. His best finish came in the Tour de Haut, where he managed fifth. He dropped out of Omloop Het Volk due to colitis and completed his final race on 19 March, a kermis in Kemzeke. Following the race, Merckx went on a vacation to go skiing. He returned from travel to train more, but by this point the team sponsor knew he was going to quit. Merckx announced his retirement from the sport on 18 May. He stated that the doctors advised him against racing.
Following his exit from racing, Merckx opened up Eddy Merckx Cycles on 28 March 1980 in Brussels. The initial workers that were hired for the factory were trained by Ugo De Rosa, a notable bike maker, before starting. The company almost went bankrupt at one point and was also caught up in a tax repayment controversy. Merckx would spend time giving input on the models as they were being produced. Despite the financial problems the brand became highly regarded and successful, being used by several top-level cycling teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Merckx stepped down as CEO in 2008 and sold most of his shares, but still tests the bikes that are created and has some input. Cycling journalist Sam Dansie believed that the fact that Eddy Merckx Cycles has maintained a presence as an elite bicycle due to its adoption of new methods over time. As of January 2015, the business is still based in Belgium and distributes to over twenty-five countries.
While racing, he became the third rider to win all three Grand Tours in his career, a feat that has since been accomplished by more riders. He holds the record for most Grand Tour victories with 11, along with the record for most stage wins across all three Grand Tours with 64. He has completed the most Giro-Tour doubles in history with three. He was the first rider to win cycling's Triple Crown which has only been accomplished one other time, by Stephen Roche in 1987. He is the only rider to win the general, points and mountains classifications at the Giro d'Italia, in 1968, and at the Tour de France, in 1969. Since then, the general, points and mountains classifications have been won at the Vuelta a Espana by Tony Rominger in 1993 and by Laurent Jalabert in 1995. He shares the record for most victories at both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, with five wins at each. In those races he also holds the records for days spent in the race leader's jersey at 78 and 96 respectively. For his career successes in the Giro d'Italia, Merckx became the first rider inducted into the race's Hall of Fame in 2012. When being inducted, Merckx was given the modern-day trophy with the winners engraved until 1974, the last year he won the race. At the Tour, he holds the record for most stage wins in its history, with thirty-four. The Grand Départ for the 2019 Tour de France was held in Brussels, Belgium to honor Merckx's first Tour de France win in 1969.
In 1996 Albert II of Belgium, King of the Belgians, gave him the title of baron. In Italy, Merckx was given the title of Cavaliere. In 2011, he was named Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. Merckx has become an ambassador for the Damien The Leper Society, a foundation named after a Catholic priest, which battles leprosy and other diseases in developing countries. He was blessed by Pope John Paul II in Brussels in the 1990s. Merckx is an art lover and stated that his favorite artist is René Magritte, a surrealist. Salvador Dalí is another of his favorites.
He played a pivotal role in getting the Tour of Qatar started in 2002. In 2001 Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, reached out to Merckx and told him of his interest in starting a bicycle race to show off his country. Merckx then contacted then Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen, who checked out Qatar's roads. Following a successful inspection, Merckx contacted the Amaury Sport Organisation about working with him planning the race; they agreed in 2001. Merckx officially co-owned the race with Dirk De Pauw and helped organize it until the race was cancelled before the 2017 edition due to financial reasons. In addition, Merckx also helped Qatar secure the right to host the 2016 UCI Road World Championships, as well as designing the race route for the road race. Merckx briefly co-owned and helped start the Tour of Oman in 2010. In 2015, Merckx said later that although he was not racing, he knew would still be involved with the sport "as a bike builder, first in the factory and now as an ambassador." In November 2017, it was announced that Merckx and his partner Dirk De Pauw split with Tour of Oman organizer ASO following an undisclosed dispute.
Before starting the third stage of the 1968 Giro d'Italia, Merckx was found to have a heart condition. A cardiologist, Giancarlo Lavezzaro, found that Merckx had non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that has killed several young athletes. In 2013, Merckx was given a pacemaker to help correct a heart rhythm issue. The surgery was performed in Genk on 21 March and done as a preventative procedure. Merckx stated that he never had any heart issues while racing, despite the fact that several males in his family died young of heart related problems. In May 2004, he had an esophagus operation to cure stomach aches suffered since he was young. In August, he reported that he lost nearly 30 kg after the procedure. On 13 October 2019, Merckx was hospitalised after a cycling accident, having suffered a haemorrhage and being unconscious for a while. He was released a week later.
Currently, Eddy Merckx is 76 years, 0 months and 5 days old. Eddy Merckx will celebrate 77th birthday on a Friday 17th of June 2022.
Find out about Eddy Merckx birthday activities in timeline view here.