Chasing The Yellow Jersey: The Best Tour de France Cyclists of All Time

The Tour de France yellow jersey is the most coveted prize in cycling. Every year 200 or so riders take to the streets and mountains of France to battle it out for the maillot jaune

As the Tour de France 2023 approaches, we have much to think about, who will end up with the yellow jersey this year, will it be a well-known cyclist who will take home the prize of the infamous Tour de France, or will a newbie rock the cycling world? 

It is yet to be seen, but for now, let us focus on what we know… And, that is, who the best Tour de France cyclists of all time are! Today, we will talk to you all about the top 5 cyclists from the Tour de France of all time.

#1. Eddy Merckx 

Eddy is without a doubt the best bike racer we have ever seen. If we look at his numbers, he is one of the greatest tour riders of all time, and by quite a margin! 

He may have two fewer wins than Armstrong, however, his stage wins, at 34, are nine higher than Armstrong. He was so dominant that he was asked not to ride in ‘73, and he agreed, instead, he went to Vuelta and Giro, winning them.

He won the yellow jersey, as well as the green and polka dot jerseys too, feats that are yet to be matched in a single tour. Only Jalabert and Rominger have won all of these jerseys, however, they did so in separate tours.

Merckx had his run-in with adversity as well when a fan kidney-punched him on his run for a 6th victory, he never completely recovered and lost that tour which left him with 5 wins. 

#2. Miguel Induráin

Miguel Induráin secured his place as our no.2 choice and a place in history when, in 1993’s Tour de France, he landed the record as the only man to have two Giro/Tour doubles back to back! 

While we know that he had plenty of other classifications for the Tour de France, with wins throughout the first half of the 90s but his Giro d’Italia classification in ‘93 sent him into becoming a sky high legend of the race.

His first tour win was only 2 years before this, however, his two giro double in ‘92 quickly turned him into a fast legend, and getting his second tour-giro double in ‘93 make him even more infamous. 

He won the prologue at Puy-du-Fou in Vendée and waited until the 9th to take control of the race, winning by 2 minutes and 11 seconds! Incredible! 

After winning the ‘93 Giro d’Italia, and 5 straight year-after-year of general classifications in the Tour de France, Induráin proved himself to be a little short of a legend.

#3. Bernard Hinault 

Hinault is probably the 2nd best Tour de France rider in history, and if he rode now he would have a hard grip on the latest sports betting odds, however, he was active in the 80s, mostly. Winning 28 stages and 5 Tours from ‘78 to ‘85, and came second on two occasions in ‘84 and ‘86. 

Hinault was all aggressive and was ready to strike whenever an opponent showed any weakness. In ‘85, he came back from a crash that broke his nose. Yet, still, he could have equaled Armstrong if not for the recurring knee problems that kept him out of many races. 

Hinault is also the last ever French rider to have won the Tour de France.

#4. Jacques Anquetil 

Anquetil was the first rider to win the Tour de France 5 times, and he was the first French rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish. He was also the first to have won 4 Tours, amassing 16 stage victories throughout his career. 

He was a legendary rider against the clock, and he raced for the money, not for honor or pride like most of the riders today. He always paid attention to the details of winning.

When asked about his 5-second victory, his reply was simply that “it was four seconds too much”. He was not the favorite rider of the French, and his lack of style was not winning him fan points, but he was amazing at what he did!

#5. Joop Zoetemelk

Zoetemelk is not a multiple tour winner, however, his record in 16 Tours is enough to put him in our top 5. He made 1 win, was a 6-time runner-up, made 1 combination jersey, and was in the top 0, 12 times, he also won 10 stages, and his 16 Tour finishes make him the rider with the most finishes. 

His last tour was just before his 40th birthday, and at a time when athletes would be considered past their prime at 35 years old!


These are the 5 best Tour de France winners of all time, can you think of any others?

Photo by Árni Svanur Daníelsson on Unsplash


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