Freeman Cebu Sports

The best rider since Eddy Merckx?

ALLEZ - JV Araneta - The Freeman

Eddy Merckx is cyclings’ GOAT, winning one race in every three he joined. He had a voracious appetite for winning it all that he was nicknamed, The Cannibal. Merckx retired in May of 1978 and since then, any young rider who had the “potential” to be great was proclaimed to be the next GOAT.

Forty-four years later, Eddy is still on top and still the GOAT, and it seems that every year since then, it seems improbable that anyone could equal his feat or better still, beat it. While current rider Mark Cavendish equalled MErcks bunker os Tour de France stage wins, Cavendish is a pure sprinter. Eddy was a do-it-all. He could win sprints, in the mountains, in breakaways and in the time trials.

I have been following the sport for more than three decades now and until last night, I still believed that no one can come close to upstage Eddy in his GOAT throne. Enter Tadej Pogacar.

Pogacar is a Slovenian, rode the TdF twice, winning it twice. His name is difficult to pronounce but his winning ways is a joy to watch. Last Saturday, he won a race called, “Strade Bianchi '' (White roads) after breaking away with 50km to go, an unheard feat in modern cycling.

While the way he won was shocking, what was more shocking was the fact that Pogacar is still 23yo! His physicality is not imposing, like a Merckx or Miguel Indurain, he wins with ease is something to marvel at. Winning in a solo break for 50km in a race that includes 3000 meters of climbing and one third over gravel roads is. jaw-dropping.

He doesn’t show a pained look, nor does his body language betray his true  feelings late in the race. His bike is smaller than his body so he appears gangly and awkward, like he’s on a borrowed bike, legs flailing while turning the cranks in a very high gear. He looks like he doesn’t have the power, because his pedaling technique looks effortless.

He doesn’t even have the most ideal form on the bike, or the most aerodynamic Like Vincenzo Nibali, yet when he steps on the gas, he leaves behind riders that are technically better positioned on the bike. The way he dropped 2-time World Champion Julian Alaphilippe was just unbelievable to look at.

On top of these two Tour wins, he has already won two monuments, and a number of other wins in the five years he campaigned as a pro. It begs the question, “…can he at least come close to Merckx in terms of being the GOAT”?

It’s a tough ask but if you ask me, if there is anyone in the past thirty years that can potentially be the goat, Tadej is the man. But then, eras that cyclists raced are not the same and while Merckx certainly has rivals, the Slovenian has no clear rival at the moment.

And one more thing- Pogacar’s honeymoon with the press is still ongoing and his boy-next-door looks and his easy manner clearly has something to do with it. But sooner than later, some quarters will question his performance in relation to doping.It is a fact.

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