Few people can be said to have dominated their respective sports the way that Eddy Merckx dominated bicycle racing from the late 60s through most of the 70s.
|A much younger Eddy Merckx, wearing yellow in the '69|
Tour de France.
From 1968 - 1970, Merckx rode with the Faema team - and during those years he won 4 Grand Tours and 8 Classics. He won his first Tour de France in 1969 with a performance so completely dominating that he got not only the Yellow Jersey for the General Classification, but he also won the Green Jersey for Points Leader, the Mountains Classification (which would later become the Polka Dot Jersey), the Combined Classification, and the Combativity Award. Had the "Best Young Rider" category existed in 1969, he'd have won that too. In addition the Faema team won the Team Classification. In that TdF appearance, Merckx earned the nickname "the Cannibal" for the way he devoured the competition.
|An older Eddy - Still has that fierce stare, though.|
Merckx won 445 races out of 1585 that he entered in his professional career, plus the 80 he won as an amateur. His major wins include one Vuelta a España, 5 Giro d'Italia, 5 Tour de France, and 3 World Championships as well as numerous other stage races. Among the Classics, he won the Tour of Flanders 2 times, Paris-Roubaix 3 times, Gent-Wevelgem 3 times, Liege-Bastogne-Liege 5 times, and the Milan-San Remo a record 7 times. In fact, the only race among the Classics he didn't win was Paris-Tours.
His records include: Most career victories (525); Most victories in one season (54); Most stage wins in the Tour de France (34); Most days in the yellow jersey (96); Most victories in the Classics (28); and Most victories in Grand Tours (11).
Think about great athletes in almost any professional sport and ask the fans "Who is the greatest?" and it is almost always a topic for discussion and debate. Ask any cyclist or racing fan the question, "Who is the greatest racer of all time" and it would be hard to find anybody who would give a different response than Eddy Merckx.
Happy Birthday, Eddy.