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Froome versus Merckx

June 10, 2019 0 Comments

Team Sky now Team Ineos, didn’t throw Froome under the bus last year but they did make him go and sit at the back. Allowing Geraint Thomas his moment in the sun. A just reward for all the support he has given over the years, but this year is another story. Ineos won’t make the same mistake they made not allowing Wiggins to defend his Tour de France title, a decision which cost them dearly. But I don’t see Froome playing second fiddle again.

Froome clearly wants his fifth Tour de France title so he can start to be considered among the greats. Expect to start hearing Froome’s name mentioned alongside Eddy Merckx more and more. The trouble is Froome is no Eddy Merckx. Despite his heroic win in last years Giro d’Italia with a ride Merckx would be proud of, Froome remains a one-trick pony.

Merckx not only won the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta a España eleven times, but he also remains the only cyclist to have won the general classification, points classification, and mountains classification in the same Tour de France (1969). That's before we get to the 34 stage victories, including 8 individual stage wins in both the 1970 and 1974 Tour de France. The 28 Classics, 17 Six-Day races, 3 Road World Championships, and the Hour Record. Just to scratch the surface.

Froome can’t complete with Merckx, and neither can anyone else. He remains a one-off. When Lance Armstrong started comparing himself to Merckx you could hear an audible groan from the entire cycling world. We can put up with being an American who doesn't speak French, big mistake. The drugs, the blood transfusions, the ruined careers, but when you start comparing yourself to Merckx you're going to get seriously fried. The rest, as they say, is history.

What Armstrong did understand was not much else other than the Tour de France matters much in the English speaking world. The traditions aren’t known in any great detail. Trouble is cycling until quite recently was the national sport in Italy, Belgium, and France. Before being overtaken by football in the case of France, and tax evasion in the case of Italy. So tradition may not matter much to quite a significant portion of modern cycling fans, but if you’re going to start making comparisons with Eddy Merckx expect a backlash.



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