New Eddy Merckx biography unveiled in Brussels

Cycling journalist Johny de la Loi Vansevenant chronicles The Cannibal's life and times

Eddy Merckx was on hand Wednesday at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels for the unveiling of a new biography written by cycling journalist Johny de la Loi Vansevenant.

"Eddy Merckx, A Biography" relies on hours of interviews with Merckx’s relatives, friends, opponents, directors and his soigneur, according to an article on Het Nieuwsblad. Vansevenant also spent countless hours researching press coverage from the time and interviewing Merckx.

"I had the honour to interview Eddy 14 hours," Vansevenant said. "Eddy gave me a unique insight into his life. He looked back on his childhood and career, how he became the Cannibal. He gives startling commentary on his first Tour de France, looks back on his disputed positive doping test in Savona and explains how it is that he won so many times."

Vansevenant said Merckx told him he had a haematocrit level close to 50. "In other words, a great engine had a phenomenal power of recovery that he had received from Mother Nature, and he literally had a big heart that could pump a lot of blood, important in an endurance sport."

Merckx called the book a "true picture" of his life and career and praised Vansevenant for talking at length with his family during the author's research.

"He also researched many other books, magazines and newspapers to put everything into perspective, to know every detail of my career and my life. He was really passionate about doing this for years on end."

Het Nieuwsblad reported that the press coverage for the opening "massive," with press and politicians alike trying to get a picture with "The Canninbal," who turned 70 this year.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel was at the event, along with Ministers Kris Peeters and Hilde Crevits, Merckx's former coach Paul Van Himst, his former teammates, wife, Claudine, and his sister and brother, Michel and Micheline.

"It is a great honour for me that the Prime Minister is here and many others," Merckx said. "That makes me happy."

The 416-page book includes never-before-published photos from the family archives, along with photos from Merckx’s racing career.

There is also a French version.

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