Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting the "Eddy Merckx" factory

Often, and particularly when watching the sun rise, I try to imagine how the surf would be like. An old desire of having been born in Hawaii and not Copacabana usually comes to mind. When I left Brian's place that day, I knew that he, also, should have been born elsewhere. Somewhere in Europe, perhaps in Belgium.

- Contador!
- Mr Merckx!
- Welcome to the factory!
- Gracias!

The greetings at the door were our usual ones, I knew then, the man I met racing his titanium Eddie Merckx bike a few years back was the same fit, tall, not too skinny figure welcoming me into his home (the factory) that morning.

I could've prepared a list of questions if I had known I was going to have coffee with a legend of Australian Cycling. That became clear as we casually spoke bicycles, racing, training, Europe, club and team racing, partners (both of us have European partners), while looking at hundreds of medals, several bikes, wheels, tool sets, posters and photographs. Some signed by Eddie Merckx, who Brian believes should be the King of Belgium.

He showed me a cabinet full of old magazines and log books containing hundreds of thousands of ridden miles, average speeds, gradients, temperatures, tyre pressure... you ask! I didn't go into those but I asked how many racing licences he has had. Forty-eight Australian and two International licences he said. They were all kept in very good condition and next to more photos and various bike "Owner Manual" booklets.

There was the "Campagnolo Tool Cabinet", his mother's old dressing table he said, with a Campag crankset affixed to the door. I didn't open it, there were tools neatly placed every where. The ones he liked mostly were also branded "Campagnolo".

Displayed on another piece of furniture was a 56T chainring. I think the one he used for the 1974 Grafton to Inverell, the year he won the 228 km race. He hasn't won it again but he has been going back every year for one of the hardest races in Australia.

We entered the shed (the gymnasium) and there were more posters, more bikes, weights, massage devices created by him, a radio... It was all there for his daily, sometimes twice daily as Maria joins him for an after dinner stretching session. He told me how important it is to have a proper and complete training routine.

The time went so fast (they say it always does when we are having fun) and Brian wanted to quickly make coffee so we could sit down and have it with the fruit cake he baked - Great riding food! he said - before going out to have his shoulder checked by his doctor. He wasn't happy about it as he might have raced the States Championship with a torn muscle.

I left the factory thinking that Brian wasn't just an interesting man with many cycling stories, he was funny, ingenious and gracious. OK, he is mad about everything cycling and everything Merckx but he is, foremost, passionate about life. That's what I learned.


Dee said...

Way cool, what a lovely way to spend some time!

Groover said...

In my opinion one of your best posts ever!

Trickle said...

Alberto, what a fantastic post!
I have been on the recieving end of a Brian Ferris pep talk mid race. Guy is an inspiration.

If I ever grow up I want to be like Brian.

adam said...

Great stuff Alberto...can I link from the HPRW website? Adam

jaman said...

Fantastic post Mr AMR!
Sounds like an amazing place!

AMR said...

Thanks everyone for the nice comments. Yes, the man is an inspiration. I am lucky I get to ride with him now and then...
Hoping to go back for some more fruit cake...

Eddy said...

Hi Alberto
The postings on your website affected me deeply and I would like to thank you for the time and effort you dedicated to the writeup.
Bryan (Eddy) Ferris

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