Anatomy of a Photo: I Will Eat You Where You Stand.

You talkin' to me? Photo: Stephan Vanfleteren

If ever there was a photo that illustrated why anyone would be given the monicker, “The Canibal”, this is it.

I devoted a full seventeen seconds to ‘finding out the history’ of this picture, and came up empty.  G’Phant sent this my way with a short but clear note, “This photo looks like it was taken at the moment Merckx was told Moser beat his Hour record; I look forward to learning the true history.” His email went on to imply Merckx threatened to eat Moser’s entire family and that he followed through with the threat.

That’s exactly the kind of hyperbolae the Velominati try to stay away from; everyone knows Fancesco Moser is still alive – Merckx couldn’t possibly have eaten everyone in his family. The only plausible explanation would be that it was a sinister endeavor in which Moser alone was left alive to wallow in the agony of his singular survival. It is a widely accepted fact, however, that Merckx gained a lot of weight after this photo was taken. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions in this matter.

With no legitimate evidence to counter it – and as an unaccredited and completely untrustworthy member of the media, it only seems natural to assume the thesis of Geof’s email – that this is the very moment in which he was informed of the new Hour Record – is correct. (When I say ‘natural’, I actually mean ‘easy’.) While in principle I agree that Merckx’s comment was uncharacteristic in it’s lack of class, I urge you to consider that, based on the look on the Cannibal’s face, his official comment, “For the first time in the history of the Hour record a weaker man has beaten a stronger man” was not one of an uncharacteristic quip but one of self-constraint.  What he meant to say was, “I am the Cannibal. I will eat you where you stand.”

If you feel Merckx owes Moser an apology, I suggest that you tell him.

Thanks to G’Phant and Buck Rogers for the inspiration to this article.

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45 Replies to “Anatomy of a Photo: I Will Eat You Where You Stand.”

  1. @mcsqueak

    So glad I was given a glimpse of horror this morning as I checked my blogs and ate my breakfast. Cannibalism is more fun when it doesn’t really happen. Also, Merckx is still the savior.

  2. That sure is an icy glare.

    I’d definitely like to read more, and I’m sure it is out there in plenty of books, what it felt like for other pros to race against him in his prime. I imagine his talent, skills, nickname, size…and stare all made him quite imposing.

    Makes me think of the scene at the start of A Sunday in Hell when he borrows a wrench from another team car. “Give me that wrench, or I’ll eat your family.”

  3. wow….what a photo! I see quite a few, and this one is unique and one I have not ever seen, so thanks guys for posting that.

    Just what is in the Cannibals mind? Who knows, but one thing is for sure, I have seen that look so many times its ridiculous, and it was on the face of either my dad or grandpa after I got caught and had an asswhipping coming. I’ll bet someone has an asswhipping coming by ye ole cannible like back in the good ole days. Its just been taught thoroughly to me that I don’t want any of it.

  4. Moser was and is a class act, so I’m pretty sure Merckx ate Jimmy Hoffa instead. :)

  5. @Brett

    Little known fact: it was a group of early racers on their “velocipedes” that were responsible for this disaster as well. It was just easier to blame the snow…

  6. Glad to see that I can inpsire something! Makes me wonder if Mike Tyson is not Merckx’s illegitimate son?

    Either way, f’king awesome photo!

  7. @Mike
    Thanks. That looks like an awesome book. I would love to know the background to the photo (assuming it is, in fact, not quite as Frank and I surmised it might be). Does the book provide any info?

    Am sorely tempted to throw copyright laws to the wind and print this on a t-shirt, as soon as I can think of a suitable caption. (“I ate Azaria” probably doesn;t cut it, Brett, but thanks for playing.)

    Photo in different sizes available here:,simg:CAISEgnLQA80eALtdCHCSfBg_10twRg,sit:o&iact=hc&vpx=123&vpy=331&dur=1623&hovh=252&hovw=200&tx=93&ty=325&ei=jCfsTPKxAZC4sQPQjJGHDw&oei=jCfsTPKxAZC4sQPQjJGHDw&esq=1&page=1&tbnh=138&tbnw=109&ved=1t:722,r:12,s:0&biw=1131&bih=679

  8. At the risk of incurring the Wrath of Merckx… doesn’t anyone else notice the turkey neck in this photo? I gotta think this is post-retirement…. Still a great look, but I think it was staged… Flames in 5, 4, 3,…

  9. you know its coming Sgt…so duck for cover buddy

    what does turkey neck have to do w/God-all-Merckx anyway, if I may ask?

    He’s still Eddy and if only a drip of his sweat would anoint my head I would be eternally grateful

  10. @sgt
    It’s definitely “staged”. But isn’t that the point? He still embodies the V, still rocks his Molteni Arcore jersey, still looks sharp, and still looks scary enough to kill at 40 paces with just a glance. Almost tempting to pray for another film in the Alien v Predator series – Eddy v Alien & Predator – were it not for the fact that it would be too scary for anyone to watch.

  11. Fuck! Still learning how this crazy board formats… oh, for “Preview Post” function…

  12. @sgt
    Hell no. This site would lose much of its entertaainment value if we had the opportunity to pause and reflect before posting!

  13. Stephan Vanfleteren is actually a great photographer.
    The ‘Cannibal’ at his best.

  14. I can just sit and stare at that picture all fuckin’ day long. What a great photo, what a great man.

    The V-Cog is the sign, the bike is the tool, Eddy is the Prophet, Obey the Rules.

  15. There’s no story! The photographer got Eddy to put on a jersey, told him to look moody and took a black and white picture of him – what’s to tell?

  16. Pedale.Forchetta:
    @ Oli Brooke-White: you can get portraits like this one
    only at the end of very long process/work.

    Yes, I know that a great picture like that takes time and effort. I wasn’t trying to belittle the photographer but essentially that is all there is to it. My point was that there’s no other back story…

  17. @Cyclops
    Unless there’s some reason why you’re not allowed to cross the border (and some of your posts here might qualify), you’re a shitload closer than I am.

    A-Merckx to that!

  18. @Brett
    The book appears to be cheaper than on Amazon if sourced directly from Vanfleteren’s website. I’ve made enquiries on that site and apparently will receive an email with details in the next few days. Will let you know.

  19. frank :
    @Brett, @MikeThose have GOT to be Yate’s leggs.
    I want your Eddy Merckx shirt, dude.

    Yates or maybe Sean Kelly’s. Does the picture have a title with the owner of those guns?

  20. So, in a slightly surreal fashion, I had breakfast this morning with Stefan Vanfleteren, the phototographer who took this picture… I first saw it in Rouleur (I think issue 2? 3?) and had become a huge fan of his work… and have been emailing him on and off about stuff he’s doing, essentially whilst trying to work out whether I could afford one of his prints.

    Anyhow, he emails me last week to say he’s coming to London for some project or other, and would I like to have breakfast with him at the Eurostar train station when he arrives… Duh, yeah. Was awesome – he’s irritatingly good looking (not so awesome), but very charming, charismatic, cycle mad, and properly Belgian (on top of being very talented with a camera). [BTW, he’s pissed as hell, as am I, that the RvV next year is dropping both the Muur, Kapelmuur and the Bosberg from it’s parcours… we HAVE to mount a protest]

    I asked about this portrait, and how it came about… he know knows Merckx (Praise His name!) well now, but this was the first time he’d been commissioned to shoot him and was meeting him for the first time, along with a Belgian journalist for an interview, as it was His 60th birthday (so, about 6 – 7 years ago). Stefan knew He was in good shape (he has since taken some other portraits of him in not so good shape), so had borrowed a vintage, original Molteni jersey from a Belgian collector he knew, with the idea to shoot him in his old kit… So, after the interview, in some restaurant in Belgium, Stefan said “go on, put this on, and let’s go outside and take some shots”… didn’t get a great response “Are you kidding?” “no seriously, it’ll be great”… so Merckx changes in the restuarant rest room into the jersey, goes out the back with Stefan where – with no backdrop, no assistant, no extra lighting – they find a white service door to act as a neutral backdrop… which is why the photo is cropped the way it is… any further to the right, left or top, you’ll get a brick wall… behind His back is a big door handle. At this stage, Merckx didn’t know who this photograher was, and it all seemed a little mickey mouse… hence the look for the camera. And boy, what a look… but what a photo.

    Helluva way to start the day!

  21. @roadslave
    WOW. Seriously awesome! I trust you will find a way to buy one of his prints, even if it means selling a kidney.

  22. @roadslave

    What awesome stories we have been treated to today :-)

    And Oli… you were right, but I like Roadslave’s version more.

  23. I think this is the kind of look “THE GREAT HE” might have given Steve Leek at Eastway in 1981 in the Worlds,when he reportedly rode alongside Leeky in the bunch grabbed his leg just above the knee and said “strong boy” shook his head and rode off.

  24. I will post a life-size print of this picture to greet me after every ride. If this does not say “Not enough V, Pedalwan”, nothing does.

    I need to ride more.

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