The ultimate road warrior; BOOKREVIEW.
Despite experiencing a crash in the early part of a tough stage through Alpine passes as the peleton headed towards the finish at Avoriaz ski station, Merckx managed to close the gap on the race leader.
There's nothing necessarily unusual in that, except, as Fotheringham tells us, "for a man who had broken his jaw that morning the series of brutal accelerations and the miniscule time gain were truly remarkable."
X-rays revealed Merckx had suffered a double fracture of his cheekbone and had a bone splinter floating near his sinuses. He could only take fluids and had no sensation on one side of his face.
There were only six days of Le Tour remaining. Merckx could have retired to nurse his injuries.
Instead, he chose to fight on, contesting the race right to the finish line, so ensuring the winner, Bernard Thevenet, enjoyed a 'total triumph'. Between 1969 and 1974, Merckx won the Tour de France five times and the equally difficult Giro d'Italia four times.
He was crowned world champion on three occasions and racked up more than 400 victories in other races, bludgeoning his rivals into submission. Little wonder he was known as 'The Cannibal'.
This could have been a book simply laden with statistical evidence but Fotheringham chooses to add another dimension by investigating the Belgian's ultra- competitiveness. * We've teamed up with Sports Book of the Month and have a signed copy of Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike to give away. For your chance to win go to www.sportsbookofthemonth.com and answer the following question: Which cyclist currently wears the rainbow jersey of the world champion? Sports book of the month price: pounds 10.19 saving 40% on rrp