His first win at the Tour de France in 1969 promoted his name to the world's attention. He finished with the maillot jaune as the overall leader of the race, with the green jersey as the points competition winner, and the red polka-dotted jersey as the best climber in the mountain stages of the race. He was the first man to do this and still the only one.
Other racers called him the "cannibal" because he refused to ride tactically, preferring to go flat out at all times. During his peak years as a racer, he is said to have cycled over 35,000km a year. While climbing the steep, severe Mont Ventoux in 1970 to a stage win, he rode so strongly and pushed himself so hard that after he finished, oxygen was administered. He won the Tour de France five times.
He also set the hour record in Mexico City in 1973, and was also five times champion of the Giro D'Italia, considered the second most important race in professional cycling. He is one of the few cyclists to win Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North, three times.
At one point Merckx was not allowed to race although he was reinstated as an official racer.
Merckx once stated, "You can't win the Tour de France just drinking water."
Eddy Merckx is now a bicycle manufacturer and race commentator. He enjoys life and is rather heavier than when he was racing.
In 1996 he was awarded the title of Baron, which lasts a lifetime but cannot be inherited.