Eddy Merckx: Cycling Legends

Eddy Merckx: Cycling Legends

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I was a professional cyclist in Europe for 17 years from 1964 to 1980. During those years I raced against three five-time winners of the Tour de France; Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.

I studied them, I analysed how they raced, and I could second guess them. I had to, it was the only chance I had to beat them. But above all, I learned that Merckx was the best. Anquetil was as strong as Merckx, but he wasn’t as explosive, he wasn’t as dedicated, and he wasn’t as driven as Merckx. Hinault was driven and dedicated, but he didn’t have quite the class of Merckx. He was a Breton, a son of the country, an ultimate fighter.

Eddy Merckx had everything: drive, strength, class, ability, dedication and intelligence. Plus he needed to win, it was pathological.

In the 1974 Tour de France I finished 33 seconds behind Merckx in the prologue time trial. With ten stages before the mountains I thought; okay, there are three intermediate sprints each day with three, two and one second bonus. That’s 90 seconds on offer, so I set out to win the bonuses, and I won plenty, but if I won and got three seconds, Eddy was second and got two.

Eventually he got my nerves. He’d be miles ahead of me in the mountains, why was he fighting me now? So I said to him; “Eddy, look, you know all I want is the yellow jersey for one day.” And he said; “Barry my friend, it’s the yellow jersey, eh? The yellow jersey.” He was saying I would have to rip it off his back.

To me that is Eddy Merckx, an unquenchable desire win and prove he was the best all of the time.

Barry Hoban, May 2015

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