"At the peak of effort he looks on his bike as though he is fighting an imaginary enemy. He is a pedaller of violence, but the violence is carefully directed, balanced, transformed into efficient energy......"
A Velo Aficionado follower sent in his favourite video of the Cycling World Championships in Spain featuring Eddy Merckx and explained "I thought that this clip may be of interest. It’s my favourite. It’s the 1973 worlds in Spain and shows Merckx Madness with his seat height and his left knee. I love the shots of spectators flaking out in the sun, the spooky sound of crickets accompanying the break, the jarring trumpet fan fair coming to the final and the way it gets cut at 150m to go when Merckx is getting overtaken by the Italian. But the best bit is Merckx adjusting his seat while in the break. Gold!" By the end of the race Felice Gimondi won from Freddy Maertens with Luis Ocana 3rd, Eddy Merckx 4th. Merckx looks practised at adjusting his seat height swivelling like he's on a pogo stick not a bicycle, while on the move, no mean feat. Thanks Peter for sending in your favourite.
Merckx was known for taking his tape measure on the bike. He later explained to Cycling News in 2005 "Yes, that is because of my crash. It was only a few years after that when I learned that my hips were turned. I tried to get it fixed, but it was very late." Still at it decades after he retired Merckx went for a pedal with his old mate John Trevorrow in 2006, Trevorrow wrote - "He seemed frustrated over the early kilometres with the constant stops for traffic lights, and I reckon he adjusted his position 50 times on his brand spanking new Eddy Merckx special."1
This sums up The Cannibal - Eddy Merckx "At the peak of effort he looks on his bike as though he is fighting an imaginary enemy. He is a pedaller of violence, but the violence is carefully directed, balanced, transformed into efficient energy. He already sees himself [est déjà entré dans la peau de] the winner of the Tour."
Today Mark Cavendish carries on the Merckx tradition, this on Cavendish's Specialized McLaren Venge in 2011 - "Speaking of the seatpost, Cavendish has lowered his seat height by roughly 2cm since he started riding the new bike. Gary Blem, one of HTC’s mechanics at the Giro, didn’t have an explanation for the drastic drop, other than: 'He’s always changing his position. He may even change it again before the stage.' "
Lucky it's only one rider in a generation, imagine if all riders were in on the act, a whole bunch downhill, on the spanners - twisting and turning - Merckx pogo stick style.
1. Ollivier, Jean-Paul (1999), Maillot Jaune, Sélection du Reader's Digest, France, ISBN 2-7098-1091-3, p17