20 July 2012

Allez Eddie!

If you were following bike racing in 1974, when this photo was taken, you'd know that the racer in front is none other than Eddy Mercx.  I mean, who else had muscles like that in his legs?

Now, the question:  Was this photo taken in le Tour de France, which he won that year?

Well, from what I'm told, the fans were shouting "Allez! Allez!" to Eddy.  That would probably rule out le Tour, as French cycling fans actually weren't very fond of him.  

So let's see...Where else would people have been shouting 'Allez!  Allez!" ?  Specifically, where would they be directing it at Eddy?

Hmm...His home country of Belgium, possibly?  Of course, it would mean the race was in Wallonia, or possibly around Brussels, which is a bilingual city.  Either one is a possiblity:  He seems to have been popular in those areas, though not as well-loved in his home region of Flanders.

Switzerland is a possiblity.  After all, there's a mountain in the background.  And, he seems to have been more popular in the Francophone Helvetian provinces than he was in France.  

We could rule out the French-speaking African countries, as Eddy never raced them.  Ditto for French Guiana and the departements in the Caribbean.  

Saint Pierre and Miquelon?  We're getting closer:  At least we're on the right continent (more or less).  If we go a few hundred miles west, we come to a city whose flag is a white field with a clover, thistle, rose and fleur-de-lys.

You guessed it :  Montreal.  A few weeks after his fifth (and final) Tour de France victory, Eddy won the first World Professional Championship held in North America.  In the photo, he's ascending Mount Royal (for which the city is named), a climb he described as one of the most difficult of his career.

Now that we've placed it geographically, there are a few clues that tell us that the photo was indeed taken in 1974.  One, of course, is that Eddy is still young.  Also, the bike he's riding is a give-away.  But most important of all, in my opinion, are the clothes of a fan near him.  I mean, he wouldn't have gotten away with wearing them--especially those pants!--a year or two earlier or later.  

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