Cycling has been a dearly beloved sport of many for a very long time. Over the years, there have been many different types of bicycles in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. As bicycles become more accessible to the public, there have been so many legendary cyclists that have emerged in history.
In fact, it’s incredibly hard to narrow the crowd down to a specific few candidates considered as the best cyclists of all time. However, it isn’t quite impossible just yet. As such, we have gathered several terrific cyclists from the span of cycling history for you to learn a little more about. Perhaps you will find out something new about an old favourite or be introduced to a brand new hero.
Here are the six best cyclists of all time and what they have accomplished in their cycling careers:
1. Gino Bartali
Best cyclist who won a total of 170 races, including the Tour de France twice
Although Fausto Coppi outperformed Bartali later in his career, there is no doubt that the Italian cyclist is among the best cyclists of all time. Bartali was the first cyclist to win the yellow jersey and the king of the mountains jersey within the same Tour de France in 1938. He then followed this up by doing it again 10 years later.
In total, Bartali won 170 races, including the Tour de France twice, the Giro d’Italia three times, Milan-San Remo four times, the Tour of Lombardy three times and the mountains classification in the Giro seven times.
If that isn’t a full career, then I simply don’t know what is! There’s a reason why Gino Bartali is often described as one of the best cyclists of all time.
2. Felice Gimondi
Best cyclist who won many championships in Italy
One of the best Italian champions of all time, Gimondi is one of the three riders in history who have won the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de Espana, the World Highway Championships and Paris Roubaix in a single career. The champion is also the only Italian to win every Grand Tour and won two other cycling monuments with victories in Milan San-Remo in 1974 and the Tour of Lombardy in 1966 and 1973.
Gimondi was also one of the few riders in history with the capability to win any race he lined up for. That being said, if it wasn’t for participating in the same era as the equally legendary Merckx, Gimondi may have very well became known as the greatest cyclist in history.
3. Fausto Coppi
Best cyclist who won the Giro d’Italia five times
Although World War II disrupted his career in what was arguably the prime of his life, Il Campionissimo (the Champion) still brought home the win in seven Grand Tours. These were the Giro d’Italia, in a record breaking five times, and the Tour de France twice.
However, what gives Coppi the edge over some of the others on this list was his overall well-rounded nature in victories. Having won the World Highway Championships, Paris Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, on three different occasions, and the Tour of Lombardy five times for a total of nine victories in the one-day Classics.
In the history of cycling, there are clearly only two cyclists capable of topping such career stats.
4. Miguel Indurain
Best cyclist who won the Tour de France for five consecutive years
Enjoying company among the individual time-trial cyclists of all time, Indurain won 8 out of 10 Tour de France time trials during his five consecutive Tour de France victories from 1991 to 1995.
His most famous time trial, however, took place in the Tour de France of 1992. This is where Indurain managed to put a gap in the field for more than 3 minutes, and put 6 minutes on the road to the general victory of rival Laurent Fignon. Indurain also won the Giro d’Italia twice and the first Time Trial World Championship in 1995.
5. Jacques Anquetil
Best cyclist to win the Tour de France five times
The first rider in history to win the Tour de France five times, the flashy and elegant Frenchman known as Anquetil was also the first to win the three Grand Tours. These included the Giro d’Italia twice.
At that time, Anquetil was known as the best time trialist in the world, having won the ever incredible Grand Prix of Nations nine times. In total, Anquetil won 200 road races, and his eight Grand Tour victories are only surpassed by Merckx and Bernard Hinault in cycling records.
6. Eddy Merckx
Best cyclist to win the Tour de France five times
For 10 whole years, Eddy Merckx was the master of professional cycling in a show that few athletes have put forth in the history of sport.
Nicknamed “The Cannibal” for the way he devoured any competitors unlucky enough to face him with his signature, merciless style, Merckx is both the best Grand Tour rider and the best one-day Classic rider ever.
In a sport full of specialists in the modern era, the world may never be treated to a cyclist who has the potential to win every single major race on the pro calendar in the way that Merckx was able to. For reference, let’s take a look at some of his more incredible achievements.
In his career, Eddy Merckx was the Tour de France champion five times, as well as champion of the Giro d’Italia five times, as well. He had eleven Grand Tour victories, and nineteen winds in cycling’s five monuments. Merckx also achieved a complete cycling’s triple crown by winning the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the Road World Championships. He also was a seven-time Milan San Remo champion.
All in all, it’s pretty easy to argue that Merckx is one of the best cyclists of all time in the world.