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4.6 out of 5 stars
89
Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike
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on 25 July 2012
Eddy Merckx. For people like me, whose knowledge or interest in road racing commences after the 70s, that name was something of a faceless, ubiquitous imprint all over the record books. Go to Wikipedia and look up the winners of Grand Tours and classics between 1968 and 1976; you will see 'Eddy Merckx' everywhere. Having got long accustomed to seeing and hearing the name without much actual appreciation of the owner, I thought it was time to find out more about the legendary cyclist.

William Fotheringham has put this biography together in a brilliant fashion. He gives some wonderful passage to Merckx's rise, and focusses on many rivals and team-mates/domestiques who were present during the great man's career. Fotheringham also does a brilliant job of putting Merckx's achievements into true perspective - particularly his one-hour record, and the fact that unlike today, there was no dedication to a single tour - Merckx, `The Cannibal', rode to win anywhere he could. When someone truly dominates their sport, such as Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Eddie Merckx, their resulting achievements can sometimes lose a bit of impact purely because there are so many statistics and high numbers to take in. Happily, the author manages to give weight and appropriate significance to many of Merckx's victories, and builds a picture of an unstoppable athlete, well ahead of his peers both physically and mentally during his dominant years - at a time when those self-same peers were often legends in their own right.

Now because I have no memories or recollections of Merckx during his career (because I wasn't around at the time), this book is the only personal insight into the man and his records that I have encountered - I therefore read this biography without prejudice. But I do think Fotheringham occasionally veers ever so slightly away from impartiality. As an example, Merckx's positive drug tests are covered; with his first, dubious result in 1969 given analysis, albeit with the impression that Merckx was more likely innocent than guilty. However, Merckx's second positive result is glossed over and his third - the one Merckx himself admits to - is not even mentioned. I would also have preferred Fotheringham to expand a bit more on Merckx's post-race years - the book does end fairly quickly after reaching his competitive retirement.

That said, these gripes are minor - this book is worthy of at least 4½ out of 5 stars - and is a thoroughly entertaining delve into the career of the definitive road legend. Merkxissimo!
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on 17 May 2012
Another great cycling book from Fotheringham. He seems to have a real knack for bringing cyclists from the past to life and putting some of the excitment of the cares from years back into his texts. I found it a real page turner and read it in less than a week. I really needed to find out the next stage of the story, how the race was won, etc. It certainly made me seek out some of the film and video footage from the races covered. I found the text from Fotheringham much more exciting than any of the film though, which whilst says something about 1970s cycle filming techniques its more a reflection on the writing abilities of the author.

There is one problem with this book that, how big a problem I'm not really sure and unless one reads French or Flemish, then its unlikely to be possible to tell. The problem is that the book doesn't really have much in the way of interviews with Merckx himself. Sure there are some quotes, stories and such from old interviews between him and the author and of course there is lots of historical sources and interviews with contempories but there did seem to be a noticeable omission of direct interviews with the main man himself. Not sure why that might be, I can only infer that he actively did not want to be involved, which is a shame, as I am sure it would have added something.

Its still an excellent book though and considering the lack of alternative English language books on Merckx, then its required reading. Highly recommended.
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on 30 April 2012
Cycling fans enjoy; as I enjoyed reading this extreremely detailed account, but then I'm a cycling roadracing fanatic and the 'cannibal' has long been one of my heroes. William Fotheringham is clearly a Merckx worshiper also - His rendition of the life of a truly great sportsman who appears to have beaten everyone and won everything is clinical, precise and accurate. He describes the cycling achievements of the man no one could beat and his domination of his era with knowledge and enthusiasm. If the story has a fault it might rest with Merckx's constant winning ability and his total dominance of the peleton; so much so that everyone else appeared, at times, to just give up and let the 'master' ride to the inevitable victory. Of course things went wrong for Eddie in later years, when he finally lost some of his edge - but that's all in the story and that's life!

Read it if you love cyle racing and the 'BIG' TOURS ..........
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on 14 December 2012
While providing a very detailed history of Eddie Merckx's (too detailed at times, too much second by second narrative of too many races) it didn't do nearly enough for me in terms of exploring the nature of the man. I want to know more about how he thinks and more about what his day to day life during his race years was really like. I'd also like to know what he is doing now and how he looks back on those times because distance often allows us to see what was occluded at the time. A more cycling aficionado might appreciate this book more, it is certainly excellently researched and I did enjoy it, but I would like more about the man than the medals.
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on 7 October 2013
I bought this book because I had heard a lot about it! I did not know much about him (Merckx), other than he was the epitome of the professional cycling hard man. He was a bit before my time!
The book told me what I wanted to know in a very professional and well written style and I was very impressed;
But...
I could not help but think that there was something missing, he was clearly an amazing rider, but why?
The book details his life and his achievements but does not attempt to explain them. I would also have liked to learn some more anecdotes about him. Consequently, despite saying the book was great I have knocked off a star!
I would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in Eddy, but does not want to go into too much detail.
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on 14 November 2014
William Fotheringham writes about Merckx from a modern Anglo-Saxon perspective, meaning that his references and comparisons will be particularly appealing to the British readers, and to American readers to a lesser degree. The book is an easy read, and attempts (successfully in my view) to understand Merckx's mental and psychological perspectives, as well describing his major victories and principal adversaries. It also brings together famous comments by journalists and pundits of the past, giving the reader a flavor of what was being said and thought at the time.
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on 4 June 2017
Great book about a great sportsman
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2017
Great read, The author has a very engaging style of writing. So even if you are not huge cycing fan but just interested biographies or to learn a little more about this most intriguing of cyclists you will enjoy tis book.
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on 25 February 2013
A very interesting biography of the greatest racing cyclist ever - from childhood to worn-out!

Depending on one's view, he may have had a similar defect to Lance Armstrong in that he 'had to win'. The difference is that whereas Armstrong had to win by bullying & restricted his objective largely to the T de F, Merckx aimed for every notable event in the calendar. He was equally at home in the one-day classics and the major tours. Unfortunately, he was not given to sharing wins by permitting fellow riders who might have been sharing a break with him to take the line as more chivalrous men might. No wonder he had 525 wins...

Merckx let his legs do the talking & if anyone had stronger legs, then good luck to them seems to have been his phylosophy.

I heartily recommend this book.
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on 20 April 2017
Great read some interesting facts about the 'Animal'
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