In his first year as a professional (1965) Eddy Merckx was asked the not unusual question for a neo-pro, “What are your principal ambitions as a racing cyclist?” The answer was immediate: “To win the Tour de France and set a new Hour Record“.
Although Eddy Merckx went on to create an incomparable road record, he was equally adept on the track. As an amateur he tried everything on the nearby Belgian indoor velodromes of Ghent and Antwerp, even match sprinting. As a professional he won no less than 17 six day races and contested many more. In short he had no fear of the banked boards. Unquestionably a certain knack is needed to ride the track successfully. Some giants of cycling, such as Bernard Hinault, never could adapt to track riding.
By 1969 he had won both the Giro and the Tour, along with Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships; he knew he had the physical maturity for the Hour. Then late that season his leg was broken in a motor paced criterium putting finis to any record hopes.
It wasn’t until 1972 that Merckx decided to include the Hour in his season’s plans. The general idea was to ease up on the number of races so he would have energy enough to do the intense preparation required. In practice he kept pretty close to his normally full schedule. During the year he won no less than fifty (50!) races, among them a fifth Milan-San Remo, a fourth Tour de France, a third Tour of Italy, a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a third Fleche Wallone, a second Tour of Lombardy
Text from here: Eddy and the Hour.