Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Cannibal

In case you haven't been paying attention, Belgium is truly nuts for cycling, so I fit in perfectly here. How nutty? Along with Manneken Pis and Tintin, my podium for top 3 most famous Brussels resident is the one and only Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist in history . Racing from the mid 1960s to 1978, Eddy won over 500 races! This included 5 Tours de France, 5 Giri d'Italia, and 1 Vuelta d'Espana, along with 3 World Championships. Add to that repeatedly winning just about every race worth winning, and his nickname became the Cannibal.

So you want proof that Belgium loves cycling? Eddy even has a metro stop named after him on the #5 metro line! And at the metro station is his bike that he rode to the world hour record (longest distance you can ride in one hour), the most prestigious record in the sport. He did this in 1972 at Mexico City, an effort he prepared meticulously for and said likely shortened his career by a few years.


The record was broken in 1984 by the Italian Francesco Moser, using the first aerodynamic time trial bikes and disc wheels. Ultimately, in the late 1990s, aerodynamics had created such a backlash that the UCI (Union Cycliste International) "reset" the hour record guidelines to what's popularly called "Eddy Merckx" rules. This mean not more aerodynamic bikes, wheels, or even helmets.  So what happened then? In 2000, even with 3 decades of improved sport science, athlete support, nutrition, training, and bike technology, the great British cyclist Chris Boardman (who owned the "non-Eddy rules" hour record at 56.375 km), just managed to better Eddy's 1972 mark of 49.431 km by TEN metres, and where it still stands today!
The bike is painted "Eddy Merckx" (Eddy started his own bike company after his retirement) but was made by the famed Italian frame maker Ugo de Rosa (I also own a De Rosa!). How cool is it? The bike has pictures of Eddy on the head tube and seat tube! It's also painted orange to match his sponsor Molteni. And check out the chainrings on the right - they're stamped with "E-D-D-Y"! Even though the record is done on a cycling track where light weight isn't a huge issue, you can still see Eddy's passion for the lightest equipment in the cutouts on the cranks.