This is Eddy Merckx. He is Belgian. He is the best bicycle racer who has ever lived. No one will ever surpass his palmares. He won 11 Grand Tours (five of those were the Tour de France, five were the Giro d'Italia and so as not to leave the Spaniards out of his conquests, he won the Vuelta once). He was world champion three times. He won 28 classics (brutal single day races like Flanders and Roubaix). He won 17 six day races (grueling endurance races held in smoky European velodromes). His hour record stood for 28 motherfucking years. Of the 1800 races he entered, he won 525 of them. Its no wonder he became known as "The Cannibal". When he got the bit in his teeth, he did not give up, he took no prisoners, often going on the attack in a Grand Tour even though there was not a chance in hell of anyone catching take more stage wins (he has a total of 34 Tour de France stage wins: mountain stages, sprint stages, breakaways...no matter, he went after all of them) He did all this from 1965 to 1978 when he retired at the age of 32. He competed year round, no breaks (a lot of cyclists did back then but Eddy even raced on the track after the road season was over, few did that).
In 1969, at a Derny (a small motorbike that was ridden in front of the cyclist) paced race shortly after the Tour de France, Eddy and his Derny rider, Fernand Wembst, crashed on the concrete velodrome in Blois, France. Wembst died; Eddy ended up flat on is back for six weeks with a twisted pelvis and massive head injuries. He came back to win the Tour again in 1970. Nothing, I mean nothing, keeps Eddy down. In the 1975 Tour, a spectator punched him in the stomach (he was riding in the lead up a mountain side, spectators, then, as now line the slopes right next to the riders. Two days later, he crashed and broke his cheek bone and had trouble eating throughout the rest of the race. To insure the his teammates would not lose a payday (the winner gives all of his race winnings to his teammates, once again, still done to this day), he opted to not drop out of the race, ultimately finishing second.
So; anyone still reading this is probably starting to wonder why I am writing all this? Damn good question to which I do not really have a damn good answer for. Just because will have to do. I fucking love professional cycling. Ok, well. I used to love professional cycling. Lets just say that a certain lying fuck face dickhead with a name that rhymes with Lance "shit for brains" Armstrong kind of put a damper on my love of the sport. I still follow the races. I still ride my single speed bike around some. Cycling is definitely cleaning its act up after years of EPO and blood doping almost put the sport in the graveyard for good. Eddy comes from a simpler time. Was there doping? Of course there was, but it was not at the crazy scientific, doctor led levels it got to recently. Races were harder to read, riders did not follow safe plans to minimize losses, they fucking went balls out and tried to fucking win.
Several years ago, I headed to Las Vegas for a conference related to my then career in EMS. I normally avoided conferences related to EMS like the plague. I did not want to hang out with a bunch of other medics talking about medic shit. However, on this particular year: Interbike, a splendiferous celebration of all things cycling was being held at the same time as the EMS jack off fest was going on. So I jumped at the chance to get a free trip to Vegas (another place I avoid like my life depended on it) so i could go to Interbike . A friend of mine from the cycling world was going as well and had snagged me a conference pass through his job. I did what I needed to do to meet my obligations on the EMS side of things and then promptly would high tale it to Interbike.
I land in Vegas. I get off the plane and head to the luggage area to pick up my bag. There is a man standing in front of me. I am looking at the back of his head. I'm thinking, huh, this guy looks really familiar. He reaches forward to get a bag going by on the belt and turns slightly to his left. Time stopped, the air thickened, a pale yellow light enveloped everything. Luckily, I had just gone to the bathroom or I would have pissed myself. Eddy Merckx was standing in front of me, retrieving his bag from the conveyor belt. This is fucking ridiculous. Eddy Merckx should have some sycophant doing this for him. As I am thinking this, he fumbles the bag and it falls off of the conveyor to the floor, landing on its side. I immediately go for the bag, righting it, saying: "let me get that for you Mr. Merckx!" (I think thats what I said anyway, its what was in my head, but I was so flustered to have THE GOD DAMN MOTHER FUCKING BEST FUCKING CYCLIST WHO EVER LIVED...THE FUCKING CANNIBAL HIMSELF...EDOUARD LOUIS JOSEPH MERCKX....EDDY WHOLLY SHIT MERCKX...standing in front of me in the Las Vegas airport baggage claim area, that its amazing any words came out at all). He thanked me (EDDY MERCKX THANKED ME...fuckity fuckity fuck fuck). I then said something along the lines of what a great thrill it was to meet him (who fucking knows what I said, it was a long time ago and my memory sucks) But I do remember what he said: "Call me Eddy (I think I had said Mr. Merckx about thirty seven times by this point in our brief conversation), thanks for catching my bag." Then he asked if I was in Vegas for Interbike, to which I said yes. Then he said: "Good, I will see you later then." My fanboy brain basically collapsed in on itself like some kind of higgs boson black hole, grinding noises filled the void in my empty head. Eddy (he told me to call him Eddy) then turned and walked away with his bag in tow.
I, of course, did not run into Eddy(he told me to call him that) again. However, I handled this luggage for him. And that was pretty fucking cool. And he told me to call him Eddy (I don't think I ever did though).
What song for this you ask? Hmmm.....well instead of music, lets go with this Monty Python clip for Bicycle Repairman: