The camera doesn’t linger much on Eddy Merckx and that’s a good thing. We don’t like to see Eddy like this. There’s no fight in him. He’s beaten, exhausted. It’s sad. We’re so used to seeing Eddy living up to his nickname, The Cannibal, tormenting the pack, inspiring fear in everyone, voraciously eating up the road, humiliating his opponents. But that didn’t happen in Paris-Roubaix in 1976, as beautifully documented in the film “A Sunday in Hell” – which we’ve been revisiting almost weekly for more than a year, obsessing on all the film’s glorious details.
Eddy, past the peak of his career, inexplicably missed the break and found himself hopelessly gaped in the final kilometers by Roger DeVlaeminck, Francesco Moser, Marc Demeyer and Hennie Kuiper. We’ve all been there, that moment when we must accept reality and admit that we can’t bridge up to the leaders no matter how insanely hard we ride.
“Dutch Tour de France star (Joop) Zoetemelk is tired. Merckx seems resigned to his fate,” the narrator says as the camera focuses on the cyclingBelgian legend for a moment, though it seems like an eternity. We’re tempted to look away, avert our eyes, because we hate to see Eddy this way. Then, thankfully, the scene abruptly changes and we’re far up the road, following the four-man breakaway.
The commentary picks up again: “Moser tries to make a break for it, but again, De Vlaeminck parries the move in a flash. And Kuiper again, but DeVlaeminck sees it and is on his wheel once again.”
But wait, we’re back to Merckx again. He’s moving his way up through the pack. The narrator says, ”Eddy Merckx, the race is over for him. He hasn’t been able to dominate this one.”
Then Eddy gets out of his saddle slightly and starts stomping on his pedals like a man possessed, with his hands in the drops and his head below his bars as he powers on. “Suddenly, he mounts an attack. Only a Merckx would attack at this late hour,” the narrator says. You can’t help but love Eddy for giving it one last shot. It’s a surge fueled purely by pride. But it turns out to be hopeless.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: "A Sunday in Hell", Demeyer, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Joop Zeotemelk, Paris-Roubaix, Roger DeVlaeminck | No Comments »