Several Interesting Facts About Eddy Merckx

04.12.2012 | 11:19 am

When I was in France last Summer, Andy Hampsten was going on and on and on about what a great book Slaying the Badger is, so I thought I’d get a copy and read it.

As it turns out, Andy was right. It was an awesome book, about an extraordinary race. And in a couple months — when VeloPress releases the book to the U.S., we’re going to do a book clubbish thing, where we all read it, and then have the author, Richard Moore, join us for a live discussion.

But that’s not the main topic for today’s post. No, that’s just the tangentially-related teaser. Because when I read Slaying the Badger, it occurred to me that I really had no knowledge whatsoever of the early days of cycling, much less the glory days of cycling.

In fact, I wasn’t even sure what the difference is.

220px-Eddy_Merckx_Molteni_1973.jpgI started feeling a little big guilty about the fact that — because it’s expected of me — whenever asked, I state with what I hope passes for conviction that Eddy Merckx is the greatest cyclist of all time, and that nobody has or even could ever surpass him, and that anyone who even tried should not even be allowed to call himself a “cyclist,” but would have to henceforth call himself a “bicycle rider.”

But even as I said these things, I knew in my heart that I really had no idea why Eddy Merckx was such a big deal.

So I decided it was time to educate myself in the matter.

And since I am a professional research analyst, my investigation into the life and time of Eddy Merckx was as thorough as it was exhaustive. After countless hours spent reading, collating, interpreting, interviewing, and — as a last resort — utilizing internet search engines.

And now I am happy to report that I am an Eddy Merckx expert. And as such, I have uncovered a number of truly astonishing facts and anecdotes about this man’s life and accomplishments.

And since it is possible that I am not the only cyclist who has lacked detailed knowledge of this great man’s life, I will now share my newfound knowledge with you.

Interesting Name Facts

Eddy Merckx’s full name is Edouard Lous Joseph, Baron Merckx. I am not sure what the comma is for, but it is widely known that while Eddy tolerates common misspellings of his name (“Eddie” or “Ed”), he becomes furious if the comma is neglected.

Less-well-known is the fact that Eddy’s last name was originally spelled “Mergckxstp.” Eddy had his surname shortened to make it easier to spell, and started going by “Eddy” because sports announcers frequently passsed out while trying to get Eddy’s full name out in a single breath.

Interesting Life Facts

Eddy grew up in Belgium, but cannot tolerate the taste of Belgian waffles. “I am sick and tired of people always serving waffles when they have me over for breakfast,” Merckx once said. “Could we please just have pancakes instead?”

Surprising First Bicycle Facts

Eddy had a pleasant childhood, growing up in a suburb near Brussels. In many ways, he had a typical childhood, with some notable exceptions. For example, many people know that Merckx got his first racing bike at the age of eight. What many people do not know, however, is that it was the age of eight months.

Further, Eddy paid for the this first bike with funds he had earned himself at his job as an ice crusher, where he would take 50-pound blocks of ice and squeeze them between his thighs.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, Eddy won his first bike race the first time he ever rode a bike, and won it by accident. Evidently, he climbed upon his bike at home, began riding it, wound up at a local race and decided to join in the fun.

He eventually bridged to a breakaway and won in a hard-fought sprint at the finish. Years later, the person who took second would claim he let Eddy win because he was only eight months old, but photographic evidence suggests otherwise.

Tragically, Eddy would not receive the trophy due to him, nor the cash prize, because he had poached the race. Disheartened, Merckx would not race again until later that afternoon.

merckx1.jpgSurprising Racing Career Facts

The racing exploits of Eddy Merckx are as legendary as they are fascinating. A few lesser-known facts about his racing career are as follows:

  • Eddy is the only person to have ever the Tour de France twice in a single year.
  • Merckx is fluent in 18 languages and has preternaturally sharp hearing. Combined, these two attributes ensured that Eddy always knew everything everyone was talking about in the peloton.
  • The limiting factor in his speed on a bicycle was actually the strength of the chain. If Eddy actually exerted the full force of his legs at any given moment, the bike chain would invariably break.
  • Merckx’s bike actually weighed over 250 pounds, a joke the team mechanic played on Eddy for the duration of his career. “We built his bike out of lead, just to see if it would slow him down,” said Frank Frorchxtcxts (also a Belgian). “It did not.”
  • Eddy had 10,009 career wins. This is interesting because 10,009 is a prime number.
  • If the bike chain had not been the limiting factor in Merckx’s bike speed, the tires would have been, because they start to melt at speeds greater than 212 mph.
  • Merckx actually won his first Tour de France in 1960 under the pseudonym Gastone Nancini. Merckx raced under a pseudonym because he was 15 at the time.
  • Also, Eddy raced — and, naturally won — the 1980 Tour de France as Joop Zoetemelk. He did this for no other reason than to break Hinault’s winning streak.
  • When Eddy Merckx set the hour record in 1972, he wasn’t even trying. He was just out on a recovery ride.
  • Eddy was known as “The Cannibal” during his racing career, but maintains he has never in actuality eaten human flesh.

Post-Racing Career

After retiring for the pro peloton, Eddy Merckx formed a successful bike company.

He also embarked on a career of fighting crime, with an emphasis on catching criminals by, well, catching them. And also with a side-specialty of kicking doors in.

Or in the absence of doors, kicking down walls.

Eddy Merckx has earned seven doctoral degrees. His hobby is astronomy and he is currently building engaged in what will be the first lunar lander ever built, launched, landed on the moon, and returned to earth, by a single individual, using nothing but his own leg power.

Merckx says he started the project last week and expects to finish it by Saturday.

Belgium has recently honored Merckx by retiring the letter X from its alphabet; no words apart from “Merckx” shall use the letter from this point forward.

Notably, Eddy Merckx has never heard of Chuck Norris, but is widely reported to likely find such a poseur laughable.


  1. Comment by wishiwasmerckx | 04.12.2012 | 11:33 am

    Now you have some insight as to why I chose the name I post under.

  2. Comment by wishiwasmerckx | 04.12.2012 | 11:34 am

    Oh, and I don’t suppose that we podium race in these here woods, but just in case…well, you know the rest…

  3. Comment by Superstantial | 04.12.2012 | 11:55 am

    This was fantastic. One of the best posts in a while.

    I think everyone noticed that this had to do with the Chuck Norris joke, but your last line was unexpectedly hilarious.

  4. Comment by blair | 04.12.2012 | 12:28 pm

    but have you noticed that neither Eddy nor Chuck talks smack about Jens Voigt?

  5. Comment by Geoffrey | 04.12.2012 | 12:37 pm

    Before Eddy started racing, days were only 23 hours. He changed the rotational speed of the earth during Tour stages going west.

  6. Comment by mr t | 04.12.2012 | 12:38 pm

    I think we should add Tom Boonen to the pantheon of Jens, Eddy and Chuck. His original name was Boooonen but he shortened it because a bicycle has two, not four, wheels.

  7. Comment by Angie G | 04.12.2012 | 1:16 pm

    Too Funny!! Has Levi put him in a headlock too?

  8. Comment by CalgaryJN | 04.12.2012 | 1:21 pm

    Wait…you know Andy FREAKING Hampsten???

  9. Comment by Christina | 04.12.2012 | 1:24 pm

    Fun fact- he and I share a birthday! In fact, I can’t do 100MoN on June 3, but figured I’d move it out a few weeks to that day. I just need to find a cardboard cutout of him before then…he can ride shotgun.

  10. Comment by Kukui | 04.12.2012 | 1:40 pm

    At last! Now I know everything I’ve ever needed to know about Eddy Merckx! Oh, the guys down at the LBS are gonna hear about this… they’re going to be so shocked that I know more about Eddy (aha yes, I now can talk about him using just his first name!) than THEY do!!

  11. Comment by wade | 04.12.2012 | 1:48 pm

    Read Eddy Merckx – The Cannibal by Daniel Friebos.
    It was available on Kindle (I am reading now), but now doesn’t show up, and the hardcover is sold out.

  12. Comment by gregc | 04.12.2012 | 2:23 pm

    I’m waiting for Dr. L. to weigh in on this trove of little known historical facts.

  13. Comment by Anonymous | 04.12.2012 | 2:31 pm

    Real facts would be nice.

    You’re right. Unfortunately for you, my site is the only place on the web where you can find any information on Eddy Merckx. – FC

  14. Comment by TimD | 04.12.2012 | 2:35 pm

    A friend of mine did a training camp on Majorca a few years ago, 1st & 2nd Cats. Eddy was the guest trainer. On the first day’s ride he blew them all off his wheel on the first big climb. When the guys caught up Eddy was sat on a wall smoking a cigar.

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.12.2012 | 2:50 pm

    you spoiled my Chuck Norris joke.

    In Soviet Russia, Chuck Norris jokes spoil YOU. – FC

  16. Comment by Louutah | 04.12.2012 | 2:59 pm


    Sorry you didn’t like it. Please provide a URL for what you wrote today, and I’ll be happy to return the favor of giving honest, candid feedback. – FC

  17. Comment by None Given | 04.12.2012 | 3:32 pm


    LiveWrong love is one thing I can overlook, but being flip about Mr. Merckx really just shows you really do have NO insight in to, nor any respect for, this beautiful sport.

    Stick to the one guy in bike history that likes to wear funny-looking clothes, you know the name Trek discarded. That’s more up your alley, you fat ass.

    Or maybe it is true that your readers really are a mainly a bunch of dolts.

  18. Comment by JJ | 04.12.2012 | 3:46 pm

    Loved the post. And I really don’t understand the comment above. Are you truly offended by the “facts” that fatty provides or what is the motivation behind your comment?

  19. Comment by Christy S. Lube | 04.12.2012 | 4:00 pm

    o.O I feel I must now change my answer to that whole “favourite cyclist” trivia question…

    (Also, I would suggest ignoring the poor trolls who had their senses of humour surgically removed. How sad for them.)

  20. Comment by Eric L | 04.12.2012 | 4:01 pm

    …happy to be a dolt in the bunch.

    Loved the facts about Eddy.

    Velo-Retro has a awesome T-shirt of Eddy posing with a pack of Tea-Berry Gum from 1972. It makes for great conversations about Eddy or about Clark chewing gum, depending on the hipness of your company.

  21. Comment by ScottR | 04.12.2012 | 4:33 pm

    Hrmm, must have opened up Bike Snob by accident… did Snob recently change his color scheme? :-)

  22. Comment by Andrew | 04.12.2012 | 4:37 pm

    Old ‘none given’ harsh words for someone unwilling to identify themselves.

    Eddy merckxx book sales just went-up, went off to by a couple, maybe you should advertise books you choose using amazon affiliates. Interesting affect your post can have.

    Looking at the price of cycling books for the kindle fatty’s book is underprice, I recommend getting it.

  23. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 04.12.2012 | 5:30 pm

    I am always impressed by the hard work and serious research you put into these posts. I rely on the supermarket check out line magazines, talk radio, and Fatty to tell me what is going on.

    Maybe you could get in a last minute post on filing one’s taxes. That would be some serious advice from someone as famous as you.

    Thanks your fattiness!

  24. Comment by hannah | 04.12.2012 | 5:34 pm

    @blair– You win the internet for today. So awesome. Also, awesome post.

  25. Comment by Anonymous | 04.12.2012 | 5:47 pm

    @FC, I know. I was intrigued by this one and was hoping for your take on it (in real life… not make believe). I even tried re-reading it to see if I could squeeze out some enjoyment.

    My real-life take is that I was in the mood to write something silly today. Since my blog is absurd most of the time, it surprises me that anyone who doesn’t like this sort of thing has stuck around this long. It surprises me a LOT that anyone has read it twice. For example, I have not read it twice, and I wrote it.

    It’s a goofball throwaway piece. Read it and enjoy/hate it and move on with your day. – FC

  26. Comment by rsmullen | 04.12.2012 | 6:19 pm

    If I left a derogatory comment for every piece on the internet that I thought was lame, I would have no time to get anything done. No work, no cycling, no fun. With the amount of potential reading on the internet today, I think most (reasonable) people have learned to discern in the first paragraph if an article is something they would be interested in. I guess in some ways I am envious that some people have so much expendable time, they will read in full, and then comment on, an article that they have no interest in reading.

  27. Comment by spinecho | 04.12.2012 | 6:25 pm

    thank god for goofball silly stuff — it is truly one of the pleasures in life to be able to enjoy someone elses creativity and wit. thanks as always fatty for sharing with us

  28. Comment by Brian in Va | 04.12.2012 | 7:01 pm

    In the words of David Fehert, to those who don’t like the blog or post, “Why the he’ll are you still reading this?”

    Seriously funny, Fatty!

  29. Comment by thule | 04.12.2012 | 7:32 pm

    don’t believe everything you read, especially on the Internet. the Internet has become a bastion for opinion, not truth.

    long live the King of Internet Truth: FC! I absolutely rely on you!

  30. Comment by Paul M | 04.12.2012 | 7:48 pm

    If people did not do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done – “Ludwig Wittgenstein”

    Keep up the good work FC

  31. Comment by Murf524 | 04.12.2012 | 8:52 pm

    Love the piece. Don’t let the a snarky comments bring you down. Instead be rather happy that countless thousands enjoyed your writing and couldn’t appropriately express themselves.

  32. Comment by roan | 04.12.2012 | 8:56 pm

    I kinda figured I predated The Mergckxstp. Was surprised when they started calling him The Cannibal after he ‘Butchered’ his beautiful name (hint). After they started making stronger chains for him the cry thoughout Belgium was “Damn Zee Nuts, Full Speed Ahead”.
    I, for one am thankful for the stronger chains but then I was bending the chainring. Due to damage had to remove the front derailleur and that ridiculously small second ring. Eddy just kept going to larger and larger chainring. Ah, those were the days.

  33. Comment by adam_bowes | 04.12.2012 | 9:20 pm

    I was outraged!
    Then I read it twice and realized my mistake.
    You are talking about Eddy Merckx not Freddy Merckx.

    Leave Freddy alone!

  34. Comment by Alex | 04.12.2012 | 9:21 pm

    More please! This was excellent. Can’t believe you have readers without senses of humor. I feel sorry for such folks.

    Maybe, if they ever bottle the healing power of Eddy’s sweat, we can heal these poor souls.

    In the meantime, go sniff a bike seat ya losers!

  35. Comment by Ripkenfan | 04.12.2012 | 9:28 pm

    Love the piece Fatty. It’s good to know that the grand
    “Dr. L” is still reading your work. Come on Doc, don’t use anonymous or none given. Use your name with pride.

  36. Comment by MikeL | 04.12.2012 | 9:40 pm

    Wow. For a moment I thought I was on the VeloNews site after reading some of the comments.
    A refreshingly silly article that fit in well for the day. Keep it up.

  37. Comment by Bill H-D | 04.12.2012 | 11:46 pm

    Tall tales: Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan? Sheesh people.

  38. Comment by Paul Guyot | 04.13.2012 | 12:19 am

    I used to believe that anyone who posts anything anonymously does not deserve the time it takes to read their drivel.

    But then I looked at things from their POV — living in their mom’s basement, starting each day by looking at the house of the girl that dumped them in high school via Google Earth, selling off items from their childhood so they can afford another trip to Performance Bike, continually replying to tweets by Phil Liggett, Johan Bruyneel and Jonathan Vaughters, hoping for an acknowledging response, but never getting one, and the pinnacle of their day: posting anonymously in the two cycling forums frequented by like individuals who heap uninformed praise on their rants — yeah, it ain’t easy being anonymous.

    So, come on, fellow dolts, let’s give them a break.

  39. Comment by TheLurker | 04.13.2012 | 2:14 am

    Never let it be said that Fatty isn’t topical.

    Two new biographies of Merckx have just been published in the UK, “Merckx: Half-Man, Half-Bike by William Fotheringham” is one of them. Can’t for the life of me remember the title of the other. So if you want a slightly less ummm… poetic review of the life of the Greatest Cyclist Who Ever Lived (nooo, I’m not biased) you could do worse than have a look at them.

    Nah, I haven’t got shares in either publisher. Shame tho’.

  40. Comment by Grant | 04.13.2012 | 4:07 am

    Awesome post Fatty, and love your work Paul Guyot!

    I don’t get why people would bother bagging a post – especially here. I’m sure some inflammatory sites thrive on negativity, but that certainly has not been the case here – I don’t want to sound like a Fanboi coming to Fatty’s rescue, but that is just not the theme of this site (and anyone who has read more than a paragraph of any post would know that). Sorry Fatty, but there have been some posts that I have not liked as much as others, and a couple I have skim read (although I am sure the content was top notch, sometimes I don’t have time to read everything you write, let alone twice!), but everyone does not have to have an identical sense of humour or interests as me.


  41. Comment by MattC | 04.13.2012 | 5:35 am

    Nice post Fatty…you never cease to amaze me coming up with this stuff! (if I want FACT I can go to the news…CNN, FOX, you know..the TRUTH…HA!)

    ANYWAY, as always, the comments are fabulous! @Adam Bowes…that was brilliant!

    And just for the record, I could NEVER EVER get tired of Belgian Waffles. I’m quite certain that if I were to be allowed only one food item for the rest of my life, that would have to be it (of course smothered in whip cream and topped w/pure maple syrup, and maybe some fresh strawberries tossed into the fray). Pancakes…HA! I use them to soak up oil spills!

  42. Comment by MattC | 04.13.2012 | 5:58 am

    Oh, and PaulG…shouldn’t you be WORKING? We need more episodes NOW! what’s a few dozen 100 hour weeks? Back to work slacker! Ooh…time for my nap.

  43. Comment by MattC | 04.13.2012 | 6:04 am

    And being as I’m hogging the comments, just thought I’d toss this out: for all of you coming to Davis…you MUST get there by Friday afternoon so you can go to the Team Fatty exclusive Bicycling Hall of Fame evening! I learned TONS about the sport last year! For instance: WAY before the Europeans dominated world cycling, Americans TOTALLY RULED! Lots and LOTS of cool stuff there! And a guided tour, AND food n Drink! (this is all thanks to my Sist’a AngieG!) MAKE YOUR PLANS NOW!!

  44. Comment by PARK963 | 04.13.2012 | 8:45 am

    One week ago today I was hunting with my brother and he died. He was 37. I found his body and had to personally get him out of there to a place the emergency personal could find us.

    Silly little things make life fun. If we did not have them all the crappy things in life, like the above, would make this world to unbearable. I, for one, come here because although fatty does a lot to raise money for serious things, he also posts stuff that make me smile.

    I opened the blog today and read the comments under this post and was angry. But now that I think about them, I just feel sorry for the people that made them. Their perspective on life must make them miserable day in and day out.

    Keep on keep’n on Fatty. You are an inspiration to me. You lost your wife but you have found happiness in the good things in life. I am trying to do the same. He was my best friend, but I do have so many other things in life that make me happy.

  45. Comment by Ken | 04.13.2012 | 9:37 am

    @FC: Once again quivering with mirth – much appreciated!

    @PARK963: Hear, hear. Thank you.

    @Snarky commenters: * sigh *

  46. Comment by Murf524 | 04.13.2012 | 10:28 am

    @PARK963: Well said! I have the same attitude about people yelling at me from their cars when I’m on the bike. If the 20-30 seconds they have to slow down causes them that much grief they obviously have bigger issues than I. I usually wave (my entire hand not just a finger) and tell them to have a great day. They obviously need a hug.

  47. Comment by Dave T | 04.13.2012 | 11:21 am

    Very funny post I enjoyed it immensely. I particularly like the part about Belgium retiring the x from their alphabet. @Paul Guyot well said, hard to appreciate good humor when trapped in your parent’s basement.

  48. Comment by centurion | 04.13.2012 | 1:53 pm

    A “goofball throw away peice”? You serious? Repost this anytime you don’t have it in you to write something new. Repost this at least once a week even if you have something new. Include this in all of your books. Do more of this kind of stuff. This proves that you truly are cyclings(the worlds?) COMEDIAN MASTERMIND. Great stuff, keep it comming.
    PS just hope Eddy has a good sense of humor, or he’ll come to your house and kill you with a snot rocket.
    PPS to Anonymous – Lighten up, Francis!

  49. Comment by kentucky joe | 04.13.2012 | 2:20 pm

    Great post, the pictures really tell the story.

  50. Comment by roan | 04.13.2012 | 5:46 pm

    YO, Fatty, I don’t know if you go back several days to read comments posted But I need to say…
    I spent most of a afternoon checking/reading about Gastone & Joop…a most enjoyable afternoon. Luv ‘Google’ too for making research whim easy.
    Now that you have launched an ‘acting’(I thought that was what you were always doing) career…break a leg but not in Boston(research again Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, definition 2: a dance somewhat like a waltz) may your run be a Boston.

  51. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 04.13.2012 | 6:00 pm

    I LOVE REAL BELGIAN WAFFLES! The ones you buy at the street markets in Brussels. Or Antwerp, or…well you get the picture. I vacillate between golden glazed and Belgian chocolate-dipped as my all-time favorites, but it’s not ALL bad going back and trying both out just to make “sure”!
    The Dutch on the other hand have the Stroopwaffel – the inspiration for Honey Stinger waffles. there’s nothing like going to the street market in Rotterdam. Or Amsterdam, or…well you get the picture and buying a hot, fresh made stroopwaffel. You get to watch the guy pull it off the iron, trim it then cut it in half, ladle carmel-ly goodness inside then put it back together, slip it into a folded red-and-white checkered sleeve and hand it to you. Twice as big as a Honey Stinger and HOLYCRAP it’s good!

    I’m hungry now.

  52. Comment by KristenT | 04.26.2012 | 1:57 pm

    @PARK963, hugs to you– that had to have been incredibly tough. Great comment here, I could not have said it better so I won’t even try.

    @Anonymous and None Given: COWARDS.

    (And to make that relevant, I changed my usual “name” from Haven-KT to my real name.)

  53. Comment by Bicycle Clothing | 04.30.2012 | 9:57 pm

    Your research was indeed exhaustive! The facts about Eddy here are definitely a wonderful read. The man was an awesome cyclist!


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