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Ever wondered who pedals their way to glory on cycling’s toughest terrains?

From grueling mountain ascents to exhilarating sprint finishes, this elite group of 15 has pedaled beyond limits and into history.

Are you ready to ride alongside the champions who’ve spun their way to legend status?

Best Cyclists:

  1. Eddy Merckx
  2. Lance Armstrong
  3. Bernard Hinault
  4. Miguel Indurain
  5. Jacques Anquetil
  6. Fausto Coppi
  7. Chris Froome
  8. Greg LeMond
  9. Nairo Quintana
  10. Alberto Contador
  11. Sean Kelly
  12. Peter Sagan
  13. Gino Bartali
  14. Mark Cavendish
  15. Marianne Vos
Cycling

#1 Eddy Merckx

  • 🌍 Nationality: Belgian
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: June 17, 1945
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road and track bicycle racer
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 5Γ— Tour de France winner (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974), 5Γ— Giro d’Italia winner, 1Γ— Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner, 3Γ— World Champion, 7Γ— Milan–San Remo victories

Nicknamed “The Cannibal” for his insatiable appetite for victory, Eddy Merckx is widely considered the greatest cyclist of all time. His dominance across all forms of racing, from classics to grand tours, showcased his exceptional endurance and tactical brilliance. Complications from a racing injury early in his career challenged his dominance but never quenched his competitive spirit.

Merckx’s legacy extends well beyond the racecourse. His record-breaking performances and sportsmanship shaped modern cycling, setting high standards for future champions. Off the bike, he engages in charity work and contributes to the development of cycling through his bicycle brand. His influence on the sport is eternal, reflected in the continued reverence for his name in the cycling community.

#2 Lance Armstrong

  • 🌍 Nationality: American
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: September 18, 1971
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 7Γ— Tour de France winner (1999–2005), before disqualification*

Lance Armstrong was once celebrated for his comeback from cancer to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times, a feat unrivaled in the history of the sport. Known for his strategic approach and resilience, Armstrong was an icon of triumph over adversity.

However, Armstrong’s achievements were tarnished by one of the biggest doping scandals in sports history, resulting in being stripped of his Tour titles*. Despite the controversy, his fight against cancer through the Livestrong Foundation has undeniably contributed to the support of cancer survivors. Armstrong’s story embodies a mix of the heights of sporting success and the depths of fallibility.

#3 Bernard Hinault

  • 🌍 Nationality: French
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: November 14, 1954
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 5Γ— Tour de France winner (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985), 3Γ— Giro d’Italia winner, 2Γ— Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner

Affectionately known as “The Badger” for his aggressive racing style, Bernard Hinault is one of the most formidable cyclists ever. His powerful sprints and climber capabilities coupled with exceptional time-trial performances earned him a place among cycling legends. Hinault’s determination was evident as he overcame injuries to maintain his elite status.

Bernard Hinault’s dedication to the sport continued post-retirement, as he mentored young cyclists and remained involved in race organization. Beyond cycling, his personal life has been more private, though his competitive spirit and achievements continue to inspire emerging generations of cyclists in France and around the globe.

#4 Miguel Indurain

  • 🌍 Nationality: Spanish
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: July 16, 1964
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 5Γ— Tour de France winner (1991–1995), 2Γ— Giro d’Italia winner, Time Trial World Champion (1995), Olympic Time Trial Champion (1996)

Miguel Indurain, a giant of the sport both in stature and achievement, is known for his calm demeanor and time-trialing excellence. His reign over the Tour de France in the early ’90s was marked by a seemingly effortless power that left competitors trailing in his wake.

Indurain’s legacy as a cyclist is marked by his integrity and sportsmanship in an era increasingly overshadowed by doping allegations. His presence in cycling serves as an inspiration for clean competition. Off the bike, Indurain has actively engaged in charitable activities, promoting sports and health initiatives within his community.

#5 Jacques Anquetil

  • 🌍 Nationality: French
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: January 8, 1934
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 5Γ— Tour de France winner (1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964), 2Γ— Giro d’Italia winner, Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner (1963), 2Γ— Grand Prix des Nations winner

Known for his smooth pedaling style and time-trial mastery, Jacques Anquetil was a symbol of elegance on the bicycle. The first cyclist to win the Tour de France five times, Anquetil set a standard for future generations. His rivalry with Raymond Poulidor defined French cycling for the era, captivating the nation.

Anquetil’s contributions to the sport extended past his retirement, as he became a spokesman for cycling and its athletes. Off the bike, he led a glamorous life but faced personal challenges, including battling stomach cancer. Anquetil’s sophistication and achievements make him a timeless icon in the world of cycling.

#6 Fausto Coppi

  • 🌍 Nationality: Italian
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: September 15, 1919
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 2Γ— Tour de France winner (1949, 1952), 5Γ— Giro d’Italia winner, World Champion (1953)

Fausto Coppi, also known as “Il Campionissimo” (Champion of Champions), is revered for his climbing prowess and unrivaled stamina. His smooth style and quiet determination saw him rise above rivals in the grueling mountain stages. Coppi’s career was marked by a comeback after becoming a prisoner of war during WWII.

His impact on cycling is profound, with a legacy of sportsmanship and innovation, including introducing the use of diets and altitude training. Off the bike, Coppi’s personal life was under intense public scrutiny, yet his dedication to cycling and his humanitarian efforts have left a lasting impression. His story is one of triumph, tragedy, and enduring legacy.

#7 Chris Froome

  • 🌍 Nationality: British
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: May 20, 1985
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 4Γ— Tour de France winner (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017), 1Γ— Giro d’Italia winner (2018), Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner (2017), 2Γ— Olympic Bronze Medalist

Chris Froome is known for his exceptional climbing ability and time-trialing skills, which have earned him multiple grand tour victories. His success is attributed to his meticulous preparation and determination to extract every ounce of performance from his body. Despite a horrific crash in 2019, Froome’s resolve to return to the top of the sport demonstrates his resilience.

Renowned for his support of cycling’s anti-doping measures, Froome’s career highlights the sport’s complex relationship with performance enhancement. Away from cycling, he actively engages with fans and uses his platform to inspire positive change, speaking up for causes he believes in. Froome’s fierce competitiveness and commitment to improvement mark him as one of the sport’s modern greats.

#8 Greg LeMond

  • 🌍 Nationality: American
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: June 26, 1961
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Road racing cyclist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 3Γ— Tour de France winner (1986, 1989, 1990), 2Γ— World Champion (1983, 1989), Road Race Championship (1983)

Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France, revolutionized cycling with his innovative training techniques and use of technology, such as aerodynamic handlebars. His 1989 Tour victory by just eight seconds remains one of the closest and most exhilarating finishes in the event’s history.

Overcoming a life-threatening hunting accident, LeMond’s comeback to win two more Tours is testament to his incredible tenacity and strength. Post-racing, he has been an advocate for anti-doping, transparency, and safety in cycling. LeMond’s pioneering spirit not only made him a champion in the sport but also an influential figure in its evolution and integrity.

#9 Nairo Quintana

  • 🌍 Nationality: Colombian
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: February 4, 1990
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Climber, General Classification (GC) contender
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: Giro d’Italia winner (2014), Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner (2016), Multiple Grand Tour stage winner

Known as “Nairoman” for his superior climbing abilities, Nairo Quintana has made a name for himself as one of the premier mountain specialists in professional cycling. His combination of endurance and climbing technique has led him to excel in the sport’s toughest events.

Despite facing the challenge of competing in an era dominated by greats, Quintana has carved out his place among them, especially in the Grand Tours, where he’s been a consistent top contender. Off the bike, his Nairo Quintana Foundation promotes cycling and supportive environments for young athletes in Colombia. He is revered not only as a sports figure but also as an inspiration to his fellow countrymen, motivating them to pursue cycling and sporting achievements.

#10 Alberto Contador

  • 🌍 Nationality: Spanish
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: December 6, 1982
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Climber, General Classification (GC) contender
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 2Γ— Tour de France winner (2007, 2009*), Giro d’Italia winner (2008, 2015), Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner (2008, 2012, 2014)

Alberto Contador, nicknamed “El Pistolero” for his signature victory celebration, is renowned for his aggressive riding style and exceptional climbing skills. His tactical acumen and relentless attacks in the mountains have earned him a place among cycling’s elite.

Contador’s career had its controversies, including a doping ban that stripped him of some titles. Despite this setback, he returned to win additional Grand Tours and became a celebrated figure in cycling. Since retiring, Contador continues to influence the sport through the Alberto Contador Foundation, which supports young cyclists, and his work in cycling commentary. His tenacity on the bike and efforts to promote the sport off it have left a lasting legacy.

#11 Sean Kelly

  • 🌍 Nationality: Irish
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: May 24, 1956
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: All-rounder, Classics specialist
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: Vuelta a EspaΓ±a winner (1988), Paris–Roubaix winner (1984, 1986), Milan–San Remo winner (1986, 1992)

Sean Kelly, known as “King Kelly,” was one of the most successful riders of the 1980s, with an all-around ability that made him formidable in both stage races and one-day classics. His sprinting prowess and endurance enabled him to achieve numerous victories across various terrain.

Kelly’s consistency and determination were evident as he topped the world rankings for more than five years. After retirement, he has remained involved in cycling as a commentator and team ambassador. His impact on Irish cycling is immense, inspiring a generation of riders and contributing significantly to the sport’s popularity in Ireland.

#12 Peter Sagan

  • 🌍 Nationality: Slovak
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: January 26, 1990
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: All-rounder, Sprinter
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 3Γ— World Champion (2015, 2016, 2017), Tour de France Points Classification (Green Jersey) winner – multiple times

Peter Sagan is a cycling sensation known for his charismatic personality and versatile racing style, earning him the nickname “Tourminator.” With superb bike handling, quick sprints, and ability to climb, Sagan has become one of the sport’s most exciting racers to watch.

Beyond his multiple World Championship titles and consistent presence in the Tour de France green jersey competition, Sagan is a figure known for bringing energy and flair to the peloton. As an advocate for bicycle safety and children’s initiatives, he extends his impact to community and social engagement, promoting cycling as a lifestyle and form of physical activity.

#13 Gino Bartali

  • 🌍 Nationality: Italian
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: July 18, 1914
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Climber, General Classification (GC) contender
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: 2Γ— Tour de France winner (1938, 1948), 3Γ— Giro d’Italia winner (1936, 1937, 1946)

Gino Bartali is a historical figure in cycling, revered for his long career and the distinctive interval between his major victories, which spanned the war years. Bartali, called “Gino the Pious,” displayed exceptional climbing abilities and resilience throughout his career.

The legacy of Bartali is not only in his impressive sporting achievements but also in his heroic actions during World War II, secretly transporting documents for the Italian resistance. These acts of bravery and his illustrious career make him a deeply respected figure in the history of the sport and a hero of humanitarian deeds.

#14 Mark Cavendish

  • 🌍 Nationality: British
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: May 21, 1985
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: Sprinter
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: Multiple Tour de France stage wins, World Champion (2011), Milan–San Remo winner (2009)

Mark Cavendish, also known as the “Manx Missile,” is recognized for his explosive sprinting speed and knack for positioning in the chaotic final meters of a race. With an impressive record of stage wins in the Tour de France, Cavendish has cemented his status as one of the greatest sprinters of all time.

Throughout his career, Cavendish has faced challenges including injury and illness, but has shown resilience and determination in his comebacks. His personal life, particularly his advocacy for mental health awareness, adds depth to his profile, making him an inspirational figure both within and outside of the cycling world.

#15 Marianne Vos

  • 🌍 Nationality: Dutch
  • πŸŽ‚ Date of Birth: May 13, 1987
  • πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ Position/Role: All-rounder
  • πŸ† Career Highlights: Multiple World Champion in road, track, and cyclo-cross, Olympic Gold Medalist (2008, 2012)

Marianne Vos, often referred to as the “Cannibalista” in homage to Eddy Merckx, is one of the most versatile and successful female cyclists in history. Her dominance extends across various disciplines, encompassing road, track, and cyclo-cross. Vos’s tactical intelligence, sprinting capabilities, and all-round strength have earned her countless victories.

Vos continues to shape the landscape of women’s cycling, advocating for its development and greater equality. Her sporting legacy is complemented by her role in promoting women’s sports and serving as an inspiration for aspiring female athletes globally. Off the bike, Vos engages in various initiatives to encourage cycling and healthy living among all age groups.

Cycling

FAQ

Who is the best cycling athlete of all time?

Eddy Merckx is the best cycling athlete of all time. Here’s a link to our article on why we think Eddy Merckx is the best cycling athlete of all time. His unparalleled achievements highlight his status in cycling history.

Who are the top 10 greatest cycling athletes of all time?

Eddy Merckx, Lance Armstrong*, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain, Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, Chris Froome, Greg LeMond, Nairo Quintana, and Alberto Contador are the top 10 greatest cycling athletes of all time, celebrated for their historic victories and contributions to the sport.

Who is the most famous female cycling athlete?

Marianne Vos is the most famous female cycling athlete. Widely regarded for her versatility and large number of victories across multiple disciplines in the world of cycling.

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