Cycling is one of the most popular recreational sports in the world. In fact, if we set recreation aside, riding a cycle is pretty popular in itself. Fun fact: bicycles have been known to be used in several wars for moving soldiers or supplies, during scouting, etc. Japan even employed 50,000 bicycle troops in its 1937 invasion of China.
But, we are not here to talk about bicycle infantry. We are here to discuss the best cyclists in the world – athletes who have great strength and tenacity and have used these to win several championships on one of the most popular, pollution-free vehicles in the world. Here is a list of the Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. Let us take a look at their achievements.
Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time
Former Belgian professional road and track bicycle racer Edouard Louis Joseph Baron Merckx, famously known as just Eddy Merckx, was described as the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time by the VeloNews of the United States. He was also stated as “the most accomplished rider that cycling has ever known” by the French magazine “Vélo” and deserves the top spot in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. Eddy achieved the title of Tour de France and Giro d’Italia five times each, became the World Champion thrice and won the Vuelta a España once in his active cycling career. He, in his heydays, won all the classic “monument” races of professional cycling at least twice each and gathered a total of 19 Classics victories. Eddy is also noted for his commercial and sporting projects besides his cycling career and has his own line of bicycles called “Eddy Merckx Cycles”.
Former French road racing cyclist Jacques Anquetil was the first cyclist to win the Tour de France five times which he did four times consecutively from 1961 to 1964 after achieving the first one in 1957. He is noted for the ability to ride alone against the clock in individual time trial stages which earned him his nickname “Monsieur Chrono” and is the runner-up inductee in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. Anquetil achieved the bronze medal while riding for the French cycling team in the 100 km time trial at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He won the Grand Prix des Nations title nine times in a row without being defeated. Anquetil was named by L’Équipe as “France’s champion of champions” in 1963, and appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite in 1965. He also received the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur on 5 October 1966.
Former French cyclist Bernard Hinault is the only cyclist to have won all three Grand Tours each more than once and is in the third spot in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He is one of the only six cyclists to win all three Grand Tours of professional cycling. Hinault is the only cyclist to finish either first or second position in each of the Tour de France he entered and is the last French winner of the Tour de France event. He won the Tour de France event five times and became the runner-up of the event twice. He won a total of 28 stages out of which 13 were individual time trials in his active cycling career. Hinault, in his career spanning 12 years, achieved more than 200 victories. He won the Giro d’Italia thrice and the Vuelta a España twice. He is remembered for finishing the race nearly 10 minutes ahead of his next rival in 1980 Liège–Bastogne–Liège Classic event.
Retired Italian professional road cyclist Mario Cipollini, often called as just “Cipo” by popular media, is widely noted for his sprinting ability and is the fourth spot achiever in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He was nicknamed “Il Re Leone” and Super Mario, and achieved a total of 191 championship victories in his career spanning from 1989 to 2005. Cipollini, after retiring from professional circuit, made his comeback in 2008 Tour of California with Rock Racing and finished 3rd on stage 2. He started manufacturing his own brand of bicycles since 2010 which was used by the Italian ISD-NERI team. Cipollini was accused of being a client of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes for Performance-Enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2004 in a news report published by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in February 2013.
Former German professional road bicycle racer Jan Ullrich won two medals including a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics and is the 5th place in inductee in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He won the HEW Cyclassics in Hamburg in 1997 and achieved the title of Vuelta a España in 1999. Ullrich is noted for the bicycle boom in Germany after his victorious ride in the 1997 Tour de France. He was barred from the Tour de France while being accused of doping and sadly found guilty of a doping offense by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2012. All his finishes since May 2005 were removed from his Palmarès after he admitted to blood doping in 2013. Ullrich was also stripped of his 3rd place finish at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He started developing his own line of Jan Ullrich Collection bicycles since May 2006.
Legendary former Italian cyclist Angelo Fausto Coppi is regarded as the most dominant force in the Cycling world during the Second World War era and is the 6th inductee in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. His world hour record at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan stood for 14 years since 1942 until it was surpassed by Jacques Anquetil in 1956. Coppi achieved the title of Giro d’Italia for the first time at the age of just 20 in 1940 and eventually won the Giro d’Italia five times. He won the World Championship in 1953 and became the title holder of the Tour de France title twice in 1949 and 1952. Coppi won the Milan – San Remo Classic three times and the Giro di Lombardia five times in his active cycling career. This legendary cyclist is also noted for his amazing victories at Paris–Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne.
Retired Spanish road racing cyclist Miguel Indurain Larraya achieved the title of Tours de France consecutive five times from 1991 to 1995 and is on the 7th spot in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. Indurain was the youngest cyclist ever to win the Spanish amateur national road championship and was nicknamed “Miguelón” or “Big Mig” for his sheer size. He was stated as “He looks as relaxed off the bike as he does when he is on it, but you are aware that you are in the presence of a great bike rider” by the Cycling Weekly magazine. Indurain is one of the only seven people to achieve the Giro-Tour double in the same season in cycling history. He currently holds the record for the most consecutive Tour de France wins after the revocation of Lance Armstrong’s seven wins. Indurain is a current member of the Laureus World Sports Academy.
Former Irish professional road bicycle racer John James ‘Sean’ Kelly is widely regarded as one of the finest classics riders in cycling history and is the 8th inductee in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He was one of the most dominant forces of cycling world during the 1980s. Kelly won a total of 193 professional races including nine monument classics in his active cycling career spanning from 1977 until his retirement in 1994. He became the first UCI Road World Cup winner in 1989 and achieved the Paris–Nice event seven years in a row. Kelly is also noted for his championship race victories which include Milan – San Remo, Giro di Lombardia, Paris–Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. He was the first cyclist to be ranked World No.1 when the FICP rankings were introduced in March 1984. He held the World No.1 position for a record six years.
Former Italian professional racing cyclist Felice Gimondi, nicknamed “The Phoenix”, was the second cyclist after Jacques Anquetil to achieve the title of all three Grand Tours of road cycling and is on the 9th spot in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He is one of the only six cyclists to achieve such amazing feat and won the Giro d’Italia thrice, and achieved the title of the Tour de France in 1965 and Vuelta a España in 1968. Gimondi won Paris–Roubaix and the Giro di Lombardia in 1966 and won the UCI World Championships in 1973. A major cycle event held annually around Bergamo was named in his honor as “the Gran Fondo Felice Gimondi”. Bianchi also honored him while naming one of their high level framesets as the “FG Lite”. Gimondi is the current president of Bianchi cycling team “TX Active” which is specialized in MTB races.
Former American professional road racing cyclist Lance Edward Armstrong held the Tour de France titles seven times in a row from 1999 to 2005 but was later stripped of his achievements after a positive doping test, and is the 10th place holder in our list of Top 10 Greatest Cyclists of All Time. He started competing in national events at the age of 16 and became the national sprint-course triathlon champion twice consecutively in 1989 and 1990. Armstrong won the 1993 World Championship, 1995 Clásica de San Sebastián and won the Tour DuPont twice consecutively in 1995 and 1996. He won all of his Tour de France titles and a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics as a member of the US Postal and Discovery team from 1998 to 2005. Armstrong raced with the Team Radio Shack, a UCI ProTeam, from 2011 to 2011 after which he declared his retirement from the professional circuit.
Bicycle racers are considered among the top athletes in the world. They are respected for their physical power, diligence to train themselves, perseverance to go on. There is a strange sense of admiration and love in the minds of people regarding cycle racing, which is why, the sport and its participants, fictional or otherwise, have been glorified time and again in popular culture. So these were the most popular and greatest cyclists of all time. Don’t forget to share and comment down below.