Three of the Best Road Cyclists of All Time
Cyclists, as people, excel at different things. Some are unbelievable sprinters, pumping up gears along flats with hidden speed at the end of a gruelling climb. Others are endurance specialists, never flagging on even the longest inclines. Some win everything. Others have a brilliant personality that outshines their two-wheeled achievements. However, each one of these three men have (or had) something special that elevates them above most of the rest.
It was always going to be controversial, and we picked a deliberately provocative third, but here is our list of three of the greatest to ever ride on a road. Sorry to those that missed out – who would you have included on the list?
Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx is indisputably the most decorated road cyclist of all time. The Belgian was nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’, because of the way he seemed to eat his opponents up on the tarmac no matter what the conditions. He won a record 11 grand tours, five in France, Five in Italy and one in Spain. In addition to that he set the World Record for the longest distance cycled in one hour, a title he held for 28 years until the year 2000, and three World Championship wins. The Grocer’s son from central Belgium is today considered the best of all time and has continued to participate in the business side of the sport since his retirement in 1978.
Such was the skill and stamina of 1940’s Italian legend Fausto Coppi when racing bikes, you’d be forgiven for thinking he might have sold his soul to the Devil for cycling prowess – like his famous literary namesake. However, at the peak of his powers, Fausto’s career was cruelly cut short by the outbreak of World War II. The five-time Giro d’Italia (Italian Tour) and two-time Tour de France winner was reduced to cutting the hair of British officers in a POW camp, after he was captured on duty in North Africa in 1943.
That marked a four-year hiatus from the now 28-year-old’s career, but he instantly came back with a race win in Milan that year. He continued to win major tours for a decade longer too – however, we all might wonder how much Coppi would have won if he hadn’t been forced to take such a long break from the sport he loved so much. Tragically, Fausto Coppi caught malaria during a trip to Africa and died aged 40 in 1960.
A controversial inclusion this one, since the Texas-born cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after he admitted doping in 2012. However, Lance Armstrong’s achievements speak for themselves in some ways – he twice came back from serious testicular cancer to become the most famous and successful road cyclist of the modern area. Since his fall from grace, Armstrong has been banned from competitive cycling and now competes (as an amateur) in Triathlon and Iron Man competitions around the world.