Ask Eddy

BELGIUM

Eddy Merckx is the best that ever was. He won the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia five times each. He won Milan San Remo seven times – along with another 12 victories in the French – Belgian – Italian Classic single day races. These are over-all wins and don’t reflect the 64 stages won in the Grand Tours. All told, he won 445 races during 13 seasons. During his best year he won every other race he entered. His aggressive style earned him the nickname THE CANNIBAL – as in he didn’t defeat his opponents, but devoured them. One look at those eyebrows and weather-beaten face and you know he’s having you for lunch.

Merckx was more than a great rider…he epitomizes an attitude: when the going gets hard, harden-up and deal with it. KEEP IT IN THE BIG RING. The battleground is as much in the mind as in the body. Many modern training approaches play to this body-mind connection – but it’s not really a new concept. If your head and heart aren’t in the game, your body will not follow.

The attitude is about how much we’re willing to invest to push ourselves to our highest level of performance. During pre-season training we can attack an interval and push just short of blowing up, or we can play it safe and take the easy road. Small investments brings small results. Big investments? All I can say is that the Queen stage of this year’s Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour with 10,000 feet of climbing rents space in my head. Or as an old ski buddy [who used to make his living landing jets on rolling aircraft carrier decks] used to say, GO IN BIG, OR GO HOME.

Something to think about next time to eject from your aircraft at 300 mph.

It would be too easy to chalk this up to misguided male libido.

43I don’t believe that Merckx was driven solely to compete against others. The Cannibal regularly devoured himself in his own personal quest to keep it in the big ring. Like all the best in any discipline, it’s hard to separate the person from the passion: who they are and what they do are a package deal. Cycling was his performance stage, but passion for his craft tells a story in its own right.

Merckx was once quoted as saying that, except for boxing, cycling is the hardest sport in the world. I agree. In our hearts and minds we ride behind our heroes. We follow their wheel because they show us the way: they join us to a story larger than any one rider. When our attitude is dragged down by pain and effort, remembering their stories brings clarity and fresh inspiration.

Any questions? Ask Eddy.

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