By Michael Roy
In college, I had an Eddy Merckx poster on my dorm room wall, a freebee from Mirroir du Cyclisme, a cycling magazine that I purchased while in France in the summer of 1978. That year, I saw the finish of the Tour de France and the start of one of the “classics.” I missed Merckx by a year—he retired in 1977. I knew he had been the best ever, but I’d never seen him race.
It’s entirely possibly nowadays to follow European cycling, on the internet and even on TV, but I have always wanted to learn more about cycling’s history. To that effect, earlier this year I purchased two Velopress books—Paris-Roubaix:A Journey Through Hell and The Spring Classics. These are large-format coffee-table books with many pictures and text telling the story of these races. I enjoyed them immensely, so I was happy to be given the opportunity to read and review Merckx 525, another in Velopress’s series of large-format coffee-table cycling books that features the career of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist of all time. The book covers Merckx’s career from the amateur ranks through his retirement as a professional, listing his 525 career victories, with full-page photographs and text discussing some of the biggest victories, as well as some non-victories. If you are looking for a coffee-table type book of this sort, you’ll enjoy this, as I did. I’ll keep it in the family room to peruse from time to time, along with my other Velopress books.
This book is what it is—a coffee-table book with lots of photos and not so much text. It is not a biography. It contains no new information about Eddy Merckx, so far as I can tell. It covers only Merckx’s cycling career, and (other than to list them) does not discuss some of his victories, omitting any discussion of his final Tour de France victory and several of his Giro victories. Of course, this is inevitable; after all, it wouldn’t be possible to write about all 525 victories (though his Tour and Giro victories would stand out among his many victories and would seem to merit some discussion). The text is not always the best-written (Velopress’s Paris-Roubaix and The Spring Classics are better-written), but it is still a good read because the stories are always compelling, featuring some of Merckx’s greatest achievements, the efforts of his rivals to beat him, and his rivals’ reactions when they so often could only watch in awe as Merckx seemed unbeatable. (According to the book, he won 525 of the 1800 or so races he entered. One can only imagine what it must have been like to start a race as a top rival, knowing you were likely racing for second place.) The photos are excellent, although there could be more of them. Unlike the photos in my other Velopress books, all of the photos are full page, so there are fewer of them. Unfortunately, some of them are of such quality that they do not warrant full-page treatment. I’d have rather seen more photos, even if they were smaller.
Any cycling fan would enjoy this book.
Merckx 525 celebrates the unmatchable career of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist ever and the most dominant athlete of the 20th century. Known as “the Cannibal” for his insatiable hunger to win, Merckx gobbled up 525 race victories, an unrivaled legacy lionized in this once-in-a-lifetime homage.
Merckx 525 is the first book authorized by Eddy Merckx and the only book he says offers a truly complete record of his bike-racing career.