Amongst a crowd of Parisian fans and worldwide press, a 24 year old Eddy Merckx steals his first Tour de France win of a consistent five-year-run that would see the Belgian own the world’s biggest bicycle race until 1974.
Eddy may look cool and carefree in the above photo, but it really was a battle and a struggle. With Eddy riding solo for 140km straight at one point; with no one to draft off, one can only imagine the grit and sheer determination involved in a feat like this. It was the first Tour de France a Belgian had won since Sylvère Maes in 1939, thirty years previous. Since then, Merckx went on to completely destroy the competiton over the next half-decade, earning himself the nickname, ‘The Cannibal’.
Winning the Tour de France general classification however, wasn’t enough for Eddy, as he had to also take the Points Classification, Mountains Classification and Combination Classification. The team classification was also won by Merckx’s team, FAEMA.
A controversial fact surrounding the 1969 Tour de France win, is that Eddy was almost stripped of his winning title after doctors found an abnormality involving his heart rhythm. This suspicion, however, was later lifted after the discovery that many endurances athletes were regularly found to have strange heart rates and rhythms.
One of the biggest race highlights of the 1969 tour included Eddy winning the 17th stage by an incredible 8 minutes. When all was said and done, Merckx had stayed on top of the General Classification since stage 6, and ending up taking the win by 17 minutes and 54 seconds, a margin that has never since been matched by any cyclist. Ever.