Merckx on Contador. The anti-Hinault.

Eddy Merckx. Always first class.

What aging champion do you want offering critiques of the sport?

While we love the way Breton tough guy Bernard Hinault throws drunken podium crashers off the stage, his one-note critiques of the sport are predictable and often self serving. The basic story is always that he was the last real man on a race bike and everyone post-Badger is a lazy, overpaid rider with half his talent.

It’s the same story with old man Moreno Argentin, who recently launched his own broadside, claiming riders were spineless robots lacking fire and originality. He also said they were overpaid and lacking hunger — the money and hunger thing is a constant theme of old guys from the Cyclists Retirement Home.

Apparently riders don’t get enough to eat despite the abundance of foodstuffs and team chefs. And damn those paychecks for being so big. Have Hinault and Argentin been to the grocery store lately? Things cost more these days, fellas and there’s this thing called inflation. Look it up in wikipedia if you have a computer — you know what a computer is, right?

If you want a champion taking shots at you, the best you can hope for is Eddie Merckx. He will call a spade a spade but do it with some restraint. Turns out the Cannibal has something that Hinault and Moreno are short on: class and perspective.

For example, Merckx’s latest comments on the Contador affair. It would have been easy to knock back a few Trappist Ales, then dump on Alberto and along the way pump more air into his own legend. That’s not the way Merckx rolls.

“I’m not passing any judgements on the man or on the consequences,” Merckx told Le Soir. “Frankly I don’t know what is going to happen but the explanations given by Contador seem lightweight and not very credible to me.” That’s an even-handed statement, direct and honest. There’s no bile, ego or dismissive judgements.

Merckx also offered a thoughtful summation of the impact of Contador’s meat-gate on the sport of cycling. “2010 would have been a great vintage without the Contador affair,” Merckx said. “The biggest event of the season was decapitated by this happening. You’ll tell me that there is a scandal practically every year, but here it involves the head of the world rankings, the triple winner of the Tour, it’s not small.”

Merckx never claimed to be much of a reader or intellectual but decapitation is a well chosen image to describe the terrible consequences of the Spaniard’s doping investigation. Spot on, Mr. Merckx.

So once again, we must pay our respects to a truly great champion. Eddy Merckx is always class.

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  • Jorge

    How easily people forget the 1969 Giro d'Italia, the 1973 Giro di Lombardia and the 1975 Flèche Wallonne. Hopefully Wikipedia never forgets.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Jorge, I can't disagree with those ominous dates. Three good points. Still, we're talking about former greats passing judgements on current stars. We could all do worse than Eddy offering an opinion. Matt

  • Delacroix

    Seems like a champion on and off the bike. No chance of a comeback I guess.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      You know, he's just carrying a little too much weight at this point. His good friend Lance has offered some of his old blood bags but Eddy is too smart to come back now. Matt

  • Ron

    The old guys are always suspiciously silent about drugging and so willing to give the rider the benefit of the doubt. Hmmmm, I wonder why…..

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Ron, so true. But that doesn't prevent some old guys from launching attacks and playing the hypocrite. Matt

  • Mick

    Well Eddy could get some Clenbuterol steaks from Berto and shed those pesky lbs in no time…
    (As an aside…Maybe Berto has created a very effective version of the Atkins diet for endurance athletes)

    but… if Eddy was to be tested with a pint of Lance in his system, we all know Tyler already blew the vanishing twin excuse. All the best excuses have been used now ( I think….)

    Maybe it's time for you to create a wiki of the best excuses used by past dopers,
    plus…
    create a list of new & creative excuses for dopers future to reference or use, if and when needed.

    such as:
    "My doctor gave me an ointment to help speed up the healing time of my Prince Albert piercing"

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      A good idea for a blog post. If I get inspired, I'll take a crack at it some time. Matt

  • chunt

    I like Merckx's comments even more in the context of his own issues in 69, 73 and 75.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Yes, the past is adjustable — just like Chinese history. He did have his own issues.

  • http://twitter.com/Velocentric @Velocentric

    I'm impressed by his ability to completely ignore the fact that even without Contadors Steak Defence 2010 would have been dragged into the mud by a 7 time TdF winner being investigated by the Feds.

    But hey, why risk pissing off Lance?

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      You just don't want to piss off Lance even if you're right. Matt