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Édouard Louis Joseph, baron Merckx (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɛrks]) (born 17 June 1945), better known as Eddy Merckx, is a Belgian former professional road and track bicycle racer who won the Tour de France five times. He was born in Meensel-Kiezegem, Brabant, Belgium. He grew up in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Brussels, where his parents ran a grocery store. He played several sports, but found his true passion in cycling. Merckx got his first bicycle at the age of three or four and competed in his first race in 1961. His first victory came at Petit-Enghien in October 1961.
After winning eighty races as an amateur racer, he turned professional on 29 April 1965 when he signed with Solo–Superia. His first major victory came in the Milan–San Remo a year later, after switching to Peugeot–BP–Michelin. After the 1967 season, Merckx moved to Faema, and won the Giro d'Italia, his first of eleven Grand Tour victories – a record that still stands today. Four times between 1970 and 1974, Merckx completed a Grand Tour double. His final double also coincided with winning the men's road race at the 1974 UCI Road World Championships to make him the first rider to accomplish cycling's Triple Crown. Merckx broke the hour record in October 1972, extending the record by almost 800 meters.
He acquired the nickname "The Cannibal" after a teammate told his daughter of how Merckx would not let anyone else win, and the daughter referred to him as a cannibal. Merckx achieved 525 victories over his eighteen-year career. He is one of only three riders to have won all five 'Monuments of Cycling' (Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and the Giro di Lombardia). The only major one-day race he did not win was Paris–Tours: his best performance was sixth in 1973. Merckx was successful on the road and also on the track, as well as in the large stage races and one-day races. He is widely thought to be the greatest and most successful rider in the history of cycling. However, Merckx was caught in three separate doping incidents during his career.
Since Merckx's retirement from the sport on 18 May 1978, he has remained active in the cycling world. He began his own bicycle chain, Eddy Merckx Cycles, in 1980 and its bicycles were used by several professional teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Merckx coached the Belgian national cycling team for eleven years, stopping in 1996. In 2001, he played a large role in getting the Tour of Qatar organized to start in 2002. He co-owns the tour and also the Tour of Oman, both of which he still organizes.