Legendary yet controversial American cyclist Lance Armstrong is truly the greatest cyclist the world has ever seen. He achieved the Tour de France title a record seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005. Former Italian racing cyclist Felice Gimondi and Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly also deserve their mentions among the greatest cyclists of all time.
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.
Greatest Cyclists of All Time | 2023 Updates
Cycling is one of the most popular 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.
10. Eddy Merckx
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 tenth spot in our list of the 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.”
9. Jacques Anquetil
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.
The cycling world noted him for his ability to ride alone against the clock in individual time trial stages. That feat has also earned him the nickname “Monsieur Chrono.” Besides, he now holds the ninth place in our list of the 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.
8. Bernard Hinault
Former French cyclist Bernard Hinault is the only cyclist to have won all three Grand Tours, each more than once, and is in the 8th spot in our list of the 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 became the only cyclist to finish either first or second position in each of the Tour de France he entered. Besides, he also became 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. The world still remembers him for finishing the race nearly 10 minutes ahead of his next rival in the 1980 Liège–Bastogne–Liège Classic event.
7. Mario Cipollini
Popular media often called the retired Italian professional road cyclist Mario Cipollini just “Cipo”. The world still regards him for his sprinting ability. Besides, he now holds the seventh place in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time.
He has achieved a total of 191 championship victories in his career, spanning from 1989 to 2005. And for that, he has earned the nicknames ‘Il Re Leone’ and ‘Super Mario.’ Cipollini, after retiring from the professional circuit, made his comeback in the 2008 Tour of California with Rock Racing and finished 3rd on stage 2.
He started manufacturing his own brand of bicycles in 2010. The Italian ISD-NERI team later used those cycles in several tournaments.
The media accused Cipollini of being a client of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes for Performance-Enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2004. Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport first published that report in February 2013.
6. Jan Ullrich
Former German professional road bicycle racer Jan Ullrich won two medals, including a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, and is the 6th place inductee in our list of the 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. The world still notes him for the bicycle boom in Germany after his victorious ride in the 1997 Tour de France.
The authorities had barred him from the Tour de France after accusing him of doping. Sadly, the Court of Arbitration for Sport then found him guilty of a doping offense in 2012.
The authorities have stripped off all his finishes since May 2005 after he admitted to blood doping in 2013. The authorities also stripped them of his 3rd place finish at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He started developing his own line of Jan Ullrich Collection bicycles in May 2006.
5. Fausto Coppi
The cycling world still praises the legendary former Italian cyclist Angelo Fausto Coppi as the most dominant force during the Second World War era. Besides, he now holds 5th place in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time.
His world hour record at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan stood for 14 years since 1942. Later, Jacques Anquetil surpassed that record 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. He then became the titleholder 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.
The cycling world still regards him for his amazing victories in Paris–Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne.
4. Miguel Indurain
Retired Spanish road racing cyclist Miguel Indurain Larraya achieved the title of Tours de France five consecutive times from 1991 to 1995 and is in the 4th spot in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time.
Indurain became the youngest cyclist ever to win the Spanish amateur national road championship. His fans then nicknamed him “Miguelón” or “Big Mig” for his sheer size. Cycling Weekly magazine stated, “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.”
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.
3. Sean Kelly
Fans still consider former Irish professional road bicycle racer John James ‘Sean’ Kelly as one of the finest classics riders in cycling history. He now holds the 3rd place in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time.
The world witnessed him as the most dominant force in cycling 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. Besides, he has also achieved the Paris–Nice event seven years in a row. Kelly has earned praises for his championship race victories which include Milan – San Remo, Giro di Lombardia, Paris–Roubaix, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.
Right after the introduction of the FICP ranking in March 1984, he became the first cyclist to hold the World No.1 rank. And he held the World No.1 position for a record six years.
2. Felice Gimondi
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. He now holds the 2nd spot in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time.
He is one of the only six cyclists to achieve such an amazing feat. Gimondi has won the Giro d’Italia thrice and achieved the title of the Tour de France in 1965.
Besides he also achieved the 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 currently holds the presidential chair of the Bianchi cycling team “TX Active,” specializing in MTB races.
1. Lance Armstrong
One of the most controversial athletes of all time, Lance Edward Armstrong, held the Tour de France titles seven times in a row from 1999 to 2005. But, the authorities later stripped him of his achievements after a positive doping test.
He now holds the top spot in our list of the top 10 greatest cyclists of all time. Armstrong started competing in national events at the age of 16. He then became the national sprint-course triathlon champion twice consecutively, in 1989 and 1990.
Armstrong won the 1993 World Championship and 1995 Clásica de San Sebastián. Besides, he also 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. And he achieved all that feats as a member of the US Postal and Discovery team from 1998 to 2005. Armstrong raced with the Team RadioShack, a UCI ProTeam, from 2011 to 2011. He then 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 in training themselves, and 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.
Greatest Cyclists Of All Time – Infographics
FAQs Regarding Greatest Cyclists Of All Time
Q. Is Lance Armstrong the greatest cyclist of all time?
In the United States, Armstrong is viewed as the greatest cyclist of all time. According to Americans, Lance Armstrong transcends the sport of cycling. The doping scandal may detract more from the future of the sport than from Armstrong’s legacy.
Q. Who is the No 1 junior cyclist?
When Ronaldo Singh became the world’s junior leader in all four sprint events, he created history. According to the latest UCI world rankings, Ronaldo topped all three individual events – Individual Sprint, Keirin, and Time Trial – and was part of the Indian team that ranked No. 1 in the Team Sprint event.
Q. Do cyclists pee themselves?
Pee stops are common among riders. During Grand Tours, the GC leader determines when the riders will collectively pee during a ‘nature break’ slot chosen by the peloton.
Q. Who is the best biker?
There is no one better than Rachel Atherton in downhill mountain biking. It’s the first time anybody has ever won 14 straight World Cups. Even so, she still lives in the shadow of her pro-biker brothers, and she’s tired of it.
Last Updated On: December 2023