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Eddy Merckx: The Best Professional Cycling Season of All-Time (and honorable mentions)

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

It should come as no surprise that the best cyclist in the history of the sport (definitively the winningest), not to mention #1 of the Top 10 Professional Cyclists in the Peloton Legends ranking system, also holds the distinction having the single best season in its history – Eddy Merckx.

Not exactly a revelation, but not only does Merckx own the “best season ever,” he also owns the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best seasons.

What do I define as the best season ever? It is the year in which a cyclist scored the most points in the Peloton Legends Scoring System (click here for a PDF of all the races which are included). In the case of Merckx, he accomplished this during the 1971 season.

Here’s how “The Cannibal” devoured the 1971 season, capturing all the following:

  • Het Volk

  • Milan San-Remo

  • Brabantse Pijl

  • Scheldeprijs

  • La Flèche Wallone

  • Liège-Bastogne-Liège

  • Run um den Henninger Turm (Frankfurt Grand Prix

  • Giro d'Italia

  • 2 stages in the Giro

  • Tour de France

  • 6 stages in the Tour de France

  • Green Jersey in the Tour de France

  • Giro dell'Emilia

  • Gran Piemonte

  • Giro di Lombardia

  • Super Prestige Pernod (season-long competition)

Yes, that’s three Monuments; one Classic; six Semi-Classics; a Yellow, Green, and Pink jersey; eight Grand Tour stages; and a season-long competition. That’s 41 points in a single season - an entire career’s worth of points for nearly half of Top 100 cyclists! Unreal.

Here are Eddy’s four highest point scoring seasons, which are also the four best in professional cycling history:

  • 1970: 39 points

  • 1971: 41 points

  • 1972: 38 points

  • 1973: 40 points

To add some context to those numbers, it might be helpful to know which cyclists scored the highest point totals after Merckx in a single season. I’m guessing many of you might pick Stephen Roche, since he’s the only cyclist other than The Cannibal to have won the Giro, Tour, and World Championships in a single year - 1987. You’d be wrong, as it was Il Campionissimo, the legendary Fausto Coppi in 1949. Another surprise might be that both Freddy Maertens and Laurent Jalabert had some of the best seasons in the history of professional cycling.

Here’s the list of Honorable Mentions for most points scored in a single season:

  • 5th best: Fausto Coppi, 33 points in 1949

  • 6th best: Merckx, 31.5 points in 1969

  • 7th best: Freddy Maertens, 30 points in 1977

  • 8th best: (tied with Jalabert) Merckx, 29 points in 1974

  • 8th best: (tied with Merckx) Laurent Jalabert, 29 points in 1995

  • 9th best: Maertens, 27.5 points in 1976

  • 10th best: (tied with Hinault and Roche) Jacques Anquetil, 25.5 points in 1963

  • 10th best: (tied with Anquetil and Roche) Bernard Hinault, 25.5 points in 1979

  • 10th best: (tied with Anquetil and Hinault) Stephen Roche, 25.5 points in 1987

  • 11th best: Hinault, 24.5 points in 1981

  • 12th best: (tied with Kelly) Merckx, 24 points in 1968

  • 12th best: (tied with Merckx) Sean Kelly, 24 points in 1986

So, at the end of the tally, Eddy Merckx owns 7 of the 16 best years in the history of professional road cycling. It’s worth noting that it is only Freddy Maertens in 1976 and Sean Kelly in 1986 on the above list who didn’t win a Grand Tour in accumulating any of their points for those years. Although they aren’t all listed above, it is also worth mentioning how rare it is for a cyclist to score more than 20 points in a single season, which was last accomplished by Primož Roglič in 2019 (there will be more on him a future post).

If you are an Eddy Merckx fan, you can buy one of a kind merchandise like t-shirts, baseball hats, beanies and coffee mugs at my Peloton Legends store. Lastly, you can buy my book at through Amazon Prime (this is the US link, but it is available through your local Amazon marketplace if you are outside the US).

Photo copyright © CorVos

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