Merckx turned professional in 1965 with the Solo-Superia team after a successful amateur carrier winning more than 80 victories along with the 1964 World Championships Road race. From there, Merckx would go on to win virtually every major race and Grand Tour event that lay before him.
During his career from 1965 to 1978, Merckx proved to be unbeatable, with no fewer than 11 grand tour overall victories. And, upon his retirement, he had racked up a total of 525 wins – netting 445 wins out of the 1585 races he competed in.
In 1971 Merckx won 45 percent of the races he started. Come up against Merckx during that season and your chances of victory as a rival rider were as good as halved before you’d even begun.
On 25 October 1972, “the Cannibal” set a new hour record at 49.431km in Mexico City wearing a refined aero body-suit made by Amando and his son Maurizio Castelli (branded Vittore Gianni), and a specially constructed Colnago road bike with the same measurements as Merckx’s track bike.
Images: Foto Reporter Sirotti, Castelli image library