Which cyclist was nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’?

In short, the cyclist who was nicknamed, less than affectionately, ‘The Cannibal’ was legendary Belgian Edouard ‘Eddy’ Merckx. The anthropophagic moniker reportedly came about as the result of a conversation between Frenchman Christian Raymond, who was riding for the opposing Peugeot-BP-Michelin team, and his 12-year-old daughter, Brigitte, on the final day of the 1969 Tour de France. Raymond attempted to explain that, as the dominant rider of the day, Merckx was entitled to want to win every race in which he participated but, unconvinced, his daughter retorted, ‘…he’s a real cannibal.’ Later that day, Raymond mentioned the nickname to the press and the rest, as they say, is history.

Indeed, Merckx was a force majeure in the 1969 Tour de France, winning six stages, including the final individual time trial to the Velodrome de Vincennes in Paris, the yellow, green and white jerseys and the title ‘King of the Mountains’; no jersey was awarded for the Mountains Classification until 1975. As the most aggresive rider, he also won the Combativity Classification and his team, Faema, won the Team Classification.

All told, in his entire13-year professional career, between 1965 and 1978, Merckx won 445, or 28%, of the 1,585 races he entered. He was particularly successful in the three major professional cycling stage races, collectively known as the ‘Grand Tours’. He won the Giro d’Italia five times, in 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974, the Tour de France five times, in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974 and the Vuelta a España once, in 1973, for an unequalled total of 11 wins. With some justification, he is widely considered the greatest professional cyclist in history.

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