As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have seen four athletes completely dominate their sports. Eddy Mercx was the first of them.
He turned 70 today. Oh, how time flies--though, perhaps, not as fast as he rode in his prime!
But it wasn't his speed that makes him so memorable or that will mark him as one of the immortals. As long as the technology of training methods and bicycles themselves develops, riders will ride faster and records will be broken.
Even today, riders who have broken the hour record, or aspire to do so, look to Mercx--who held the record from 1972 to 1984--as the "gold standard", if you will. Other riders, including those who have matched his record of five Tour de France victories, speak of him with reverence.
Perhaps it's because they know neither they nor anyone else will break his record of 525 race victories. More to the point, though, is that they know that neither they nor anyone else has ever had the aura of invincibility "The Cannibal" had in his prime.
And no rider, really, has ever been as good an ambassador for the sport as he's been. Maybe no one else ever will be.