List of the greatest and most influential cyclists of all time

Here is a list of great cyclists, great racers and influential riders.  List is in chronological order.

panoramic view of people in bicycles
Cycling Race

Gentullio Campagnolo

An Italian amateur cyclist who never got to be a great pro, but he was still very influential.  He is the inventor of the quick release skewer which has been used for decades of racing.  He also is the founder of component company Campagnolo which has been used by many of racing’s greats.  Born in 1901 and he died in 1983.  A great legend of cycling.

Gentullio Campagnolo

Gino Bartali

Probably the best-known Italian cyclist before World War II.  He won 3 Giro d’Italia and 2 Tour de France.  He was a rival of Coppi and was nicknamed Gino the Pious.  Born in 1914, his professional career began in 1935 and he retired in 1954. 

Rene Vietto

French racer whose greatest achievement is not races won.  During his time water bottles were kept on the handlebars.  Rene saw how this compromised steering and instead mounted his bottle on the downtube.  This caught on and is how we all do it today.  He is also well known for giving up his front tire to his team leader in the 1934 Tour de France.  His teammate, Antonin Magne, would go on to win.  Rene won the mountains classification that year and also won 8 individual stages during his career.  Born in 1914, his career seems to go through the 30s and 40s.  He died in 1988.

Fausto Coppi

Italian cyclist who was dominant during the time after World War II.  He was so good he earned the title Il Campionissimo or Champion of Champions.  His wins include 5 Giro d’Italia, 2 Tour de France, 5 Giro di Lombardia, 3 Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, La Fleche Wallonne, and the 1953 World Championship.  He also set the hour record in 1942 with 45.798 km.  Born in 1919, his professional career began in 1938 and he retired in 1959.

Pat Hawkins

Australian cyclist who set records for 1,000 miles and 7 days.  In 1940 she rode 1,000 miles in 4 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes.  That same year she rode 1,546.8 miles in 7 days.  Born in 1921 and died in 1991.

Jacques Anquetil

French cyclist who was the first to win 5 Tour de France.  He also won 2 Giro d’Italia and 1 Vuelta a Espana for a total of 8 Grand Tours.  His ability to ride alone against the clock earned him the nickname “Monsieur Chrono”.   In 1956 he set a new Hour Record with 46.159 km.  Born in 1934, his professional career began in 1953 and he retired in 1969.  He died in 1987.

Beryl Burton

English cyclist who dominated women’s racing in the UK.  She won 7 World titles and more than 90 domestic championships.  In 1967 she set a 12-hour time trial record with 277.25 miles, even beating the men’s record.  Born in 1937 and died in 1996.

Eddy Merckx 

Eddy makes the top of most great cyclist lists for good reason.  He may be the greatest competitive cyclist of all time with eleven Grand Tours wins (5 Tour de France, 5 Giros d’italia, and a Vuelta a Espana), all five Monuments, set the hour record, three Word Championships, and every major one-day race other than the Paris-Tours.  First ever to win the Triple Crown of victories (three major titles in the same season).  Nicknamed “The Cannibal” because he would not let anyone else win.  Born in Belgium in 1945, his professional cycling career started in 1965 and her retired from racing in 1978.  Eddy Merckx bicycles have been offered since 1980.

Eddy Merckx

Bernard Hinault

French cyclist with 5 Tour de France wins and 10 Grand Tour wins.   Total he has 147 wins.  His nickname was “TheBadger” due to his aggressive nature.  Born in 1954, his professional career began in 1975 and he retired in 1986. 

Stephen Roche

An Irish cyclist who became the second of only 3 cyclists to ever achieve the Triple Crown of victories.  Knee injuries slowed him down, but he had a total of 58 professional wins.  Born in 1959, his professional career started in 1981 and he retired in 1993.  A judge accused him of taking EPO towards the end of his career, but his wins still stand.

Sean Kelly

Irish cyclist who won 9 Monument Classics.  He won a total of 193 professional races during his career including a record 7 consecutive Paris-Nice and the first UCI World Cup in 1989.  His nickname was King Kelly.  Born in 1956, his professional career began in 1977 and he retired in 1994. 

Greg LeMond

Maybe the greatest US cyclist of all time.  He is a 3-time winner of the Tour de France and 2-time Road Race World Champion.  He is the only recognized American winner of the Tour de France and first American to win the Road Race World Championship.  His nickname was “Le Monster”.  Born in California in 1961, his professional career started in 1981 and he retired in 1994.  Founded LeMond bicycles in 1986.

Miguel Indurain

Spanish cyclist best known for being the only rider to win 5 consecutive Tour de France, he is tied for the most total.  He also won 2 Giro d’Italia and set the world hour record in 1994 at 53.04 km.  His nickname is “Big Mig” due to being a relatively large rider (6’,1”).  Born in 1964, his professional career went from 1984-1996.

Erik Zabel

Maybe the greatest German cyclist of all-time.  He won 9 points classifications in Grand Tours, 4 Milan-San Remo, and has 152 professional wins.  Born in 1970, his professional career started in 1993 and he retired in 2013.  Like other racers of the time, he admitted to doping and using EPO from 1996 to 2003. 

Lance Armstrong

American cyclist most known for winning a record 7 consecutive Tour de France (1999-2005).  He retired for the second time in 2011.  In 2012 it was concluded that he had used performance-enhancing drugs and the International Cycling Union stripped him of his titles.  In 2013 he publicly admitted to doping.  It seems likely that most of those he competed against were also doping.  He is the reason everyone in the US knows of the Tour de France, so still very influential.  Born in 1971.

Annemiek van Vleuten

A Dutch born professional cyclist.  She is a two-time winner of both road race and time trial at the UCI Road World Championship and has won 3 Giro d’Italia Donne and the inaugural Tour de France Femmes.  She has also won a gold and silver medal in the Olympics.  Born in 1982, she is still racing.

Chris Froome

Born in Kenya to British parents.  He has won 7 Grand Tours with 4 Tour de France, 1 Giro d’Italia, and 2 Vuelta a Espana.  His nickname is “Froomey”.  Born in 1985, he is still actively racing.

Marianne Vos

Dutch cyclist who is an 8-time World Cyclo-cross Champion.  She is also a 3-time Road Race Champion and has 2 Olympic gold medals.  Born in 1987, she is still racing.

Amanda Coker

American cyclist who owns the World Endurance record for distance in a calendar year.  In 2017 she rode 86,573 miles.  She also holds the record for reaching 100,000 miles in 423 straight days of cycling and was the first woman to exceed 500 miles in 24 hours.  Born in 1992 in North Carolina.

11 thoughts on “List of the greatest and most influential cyclists of all time

  1. A great list, and one which may spark a few arguments. A few others who may deserve mention: Kittie Knox (1874-1900), who was the first African-American member of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW). She raced against men, making her own bike clothes since they didn’t exist for women. The LAW changed their constitution to whites-only but then decided that the change was not retroactive so she could still be a member. Major Taylor (1878-1932), who was known as “The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World”. In 1898 he held seven world records. After setting his first world record, he was banned from that track. A personal favorite of mine is Luigi Malabrocca, the only two-time winner of the Maglia Nera (Black Jersey), awarded to the last place finisher in the Giro d’Italia. He did things like stop for coffee in the towns they passed through, do a little fishing with the locals, and take naps under bridges. Certainly not among the greatest nor most influential, but he influenced me to remember not to take myself too seriously.

  2. Personally I’d have to include a mountain bike pioneer like Charli Kelly. He never won a race but his influence on contemporary cycling remains massive.

      1. I agree, Jim, they’re 2 separate disciplines and probably belong on a different list. I met Charlie Kelly when he did a talk on the early days of MTB in my home town of Chorley in North West England. There would be lots of riders who could make the list, like John Tomac, but personally I’m more impressed by the innovators than the racers.

      2. A post on the original mountain bike pioneers would be interesting. Turns out Joe Breeze, one of them, has written one for the Marin Museum of Bicycling. Jacquie Phelan and the WOMBATS are another interesting chapter. In fact, the Marin Museum, with its Mountain Biking Hall of Fame, has already done the work for you.

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