5 Best Tour De France Winners
The 5 best Tour de France winners all share one thing in common: they have won the Tour at least five times. It is an exclusive club, with a gulf separating them from the next highest Tour win total of three (held by Philippe Thys of Belgium, Louison Bobet of France and Greg LeMond of the USA). Adding to their greatness is the fact that each of them repeated the feat in consecutive years.
- Jacques Anquetil. Anquetil was one in a long line of French Tour de France winners. He took home the top prize in 1957 and again in ’61, ’62, ’63 and ’64. He was the first French cyclist to win the Tour five times and only the second ever to capture the yellow jersey on the first day of the Tour and wear it straight through to the end, which he did in ’61.
- Eddy Merckx. Belgium has had an impressive showing in the Tour, posting eighteen wins across ten different cyclists. The best Belgium Tour de France winner was Eddy Merckx, nicknamed The Cannibal because of his penchant for not giving the slightest wiggle room for opponents to catch up. He won the Tour four straight years from ’69 to ’72 before tacking on another victory in ’74. He probably would have won it again in ’75 had a radical fan not rushed onto the course and punched Merckx in the kidney, forcing him to lose precious time that he never regained. Despite this setback and a later crash that fractured his cheekbone, Merckx still managed to finish second. To date, he still holds the record for most stage victories in the Tour, most stage victories in one Tour (eight in ’70 and ’74), most days wearing the yellow jersey (86), and is the only rider to win the yellow, green and red polka-dotted jerseys in a single Tour (’69).
- Bernard Hinault. Following in the footsteps of Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault was a five-time Tour de France winner in 1978 and '79, ’81 and '82, and again in ’85. He also finished second in ’84 and ’86. Chances were good that he would have won the Tour in ’80 as well, but while wearing the yellow jersey he quit the Tour due to a knee injury. There is a dispute over whether Hinault’s teammate in the ’85 race, Greg LeMond, sacrificed a win for himself so that Hinault could take the top prize. Hinault claimed that in ’86 he helped return the favor by assisting Greg LeMond to his first Tour victory. Hinault is second behind Merckx in career stage wins with 28.
- Miguel Indurain. Miguel Indurain of Spain is one of the best Tour de France winners for being only one of five men to have won the Tour five or more times. He is also only the second rider to ever win five or more Tours consecutively. Indurain won the Tour every year from 1991 to 1995. Indurain was a top physical specimen, whose superior blood circulation, oxygenation and respiratory strength catapulted him to the top of the racing world in his prime. Despite his massive success not only on the Tour but in races such as the Giro d’Italia and other Majors championships, Indurain holds no significant Tour de France records.
- Lance Armstrong. The best Tour de France winner that ever was, Armstrong became a household name in America after winning an unprecedented seven straight Tours from 1999 to 2005. After Armstrong’s domination of the sport, the media and fans began dubbing the annual race the “Tour de Lance.” He retired after his 2005 win only to return for the 2009 Tour, where he placed third. Armstrong is fifth in total stage wins with 25, ranking behind Bernard Hinault (28) and all-time stage winner Eddy Merckx (34). Other than the seven straight victories and the stage wins, Armstrong holds few Tour records and has been plagued by doping rumors throughout his career (as had Eddy Merckx). He has never been charged formally and has never tested positive for steroids. Despite all this, however, Lance Armstrong is without a doubt the best Tour de France winner of all time.