Review: Book Review: Merckx 69, by Jan Maes.
Rich in stories and pictures from the first year of Merckx’s domination of the sport, Merckx 69 is a fascinating look back at The Cannibal’s life, told through a series of pictures and letters written to him by long-time friend Jan Maes.
It’s beast of a book in size, covering 26 inches on the diagonal when opened up, so give that some thought when in Ikea next, and at 1.6kg it’s suitably tome-like.
Merckx 69 covers the 1969 season, with large-scale photos by Tonny Strouken. The pictures are quite grainy at times, but this adds to the authenticity of the book I think. This was a time of bare heads and no sunglasses, so to me it’s all very romantic – it will certainly appeal to fans of the heritage of cycling.
I’ve found myself reading and rereading it over the last few weeks, picking it up just to look at the images, as we see into aspects of Eddie’s life that are not just about the bike.
The letters from Maes punctuate the images, providing a narrative to Merckx’s year. We read about the positive drug test from the Giro d’Italia, which if I’m totally honest I found a little to fan-boy sycophantic at this point, and his crash at the Blois velodrome which left him fighting for his life, but we do also see the admiration from from Maes for the Cannibal’s ability on the bike.
If you are after an interesting read and one that can be picked up and flicked through frequently, with a more novel story-telling style than a by-the-numbers biography of more recent times, than Merckx 69 could well fit that bill, although it may not fit your book shelf.