Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eddy Merckx..the Cannibal

I just finished reading John Brant's article, "Regarding Eddy Merckx" in November's issue of Bicycling Magazine.  From what I know of the legend..Eddy Merckx probably is the undisputed "greatest cyclist" of all time.  What was most interesting in the article was the author's quest to discover what made him "the greatest"..which by the way, he never did.  But he did ask Eddy (indirectly) what he thought made him so talented.  Eddy replied, "What is talent, really?  Is it the fact that your heart pumps more volume than the average person's or that your blood turns less acidic when exercising?  No, talent has to do with your capacity for suffering".

To Eddy..I say (respectfully) BULLSHIT!  I honestly believe if everything is equal (physiologically speaking) then yes, the man that says "ouch" last will be the winner at the end of the race/day.  But, you can not tell me that physiologically Eddy was just your average Joe with normal VO2max, Efficiency, Lactate Threshold, Endurance, Strength, etc.  It's obvious that Eddy was blessed with God-given talent/ability (to accomplish what he did in the day) and not once did he mention this to the author.  I guess Eddy wants everyone to believe he's a rough, tough manly-man (and maybe he is/was) and that the reason he won so many races in the day was because he endured more pain than anyone else.

(By the way, everyone has a different "pain threshold/level".  I know my wife has a higher "pain threshold" than I do.  But, I can't see her ever beating me in a race regardless of how much pain she can endure or how much she suffers.)

I've coached and seen many a cyclist that pushed past their pain threshold during races..enduring more pain and suffering than anyone else in the race.  The pain was so bad the racer almost passed-out.  Did that cyclist win the race?  Nope, not even close.  Why?  Because suffering (from pain) doesn't win races alone.  What wins races is talent..talent that is normally God-given.  And, that God-given talent is in the form of your genetic makeup.  If you don't believe in God, then it's's good genes.  As I said before, if the talent is equal..then the winner will most likely be the one that suffers the most.

I ride with pain (it's slight), I've been riding with pain ever since I herniated two discs in my back in 2003.  That pain will never go away (so say the docs) unless I have spine surgery to correct it (if that's even possible).  Does riding in pain make (or allow) me win races?  Hardly.  And, I do ride in/with pain every time I ride/race.  For me, I've just learned to accept it.  The pain is not excruciating..but it's there.  And, just because I can ignore the pain in my back when I ride/race doesn't mean that I can ignore the pain in my legs when I race.  The pain in my legs is a result of lactic acid build-up, micro-tears in the muscle, increased hydrogen ions, calcium deficit, or whatever "really" causes it- the jury is still out on this.  It's a different kind of pain.  But this different pain (in the legs) is a "physiological" pain barrier..not a "mental" pain barrier.  Pushing past this barrier whether your brain allows it or not will NOT make you go any's a limiter.  It's your body's way of protecting itself.  It's saying, "dude, if you keep going any more at this pace/level..I'm going to pass out and make you stop, so you don't damage these muscles". 

So, sorry Eddy..I don't buy the pain/suffering thing.  But, you're still the greatest cyclist of all time and "manly-man" (in my eyes)..but next time an editor from a major mag asks you what your secret is/was..tell them the truth (it's ok)..and thank God..or your parents..or better both for your brilliant talented career.  That's not so painful.

Power ON!  Coach Rob


John Powers said...

Your pain is related to an injury not from pressing past your threshold. Wow, you have serious stones to take shots at the cannibal. My guess is he knows a thing or two about what makes a champion.

Fred said...

Did U ever race.. If So.. At What Level..????