The 20 best British cyclists of all time
With cycling back in the news following discussions about when the Tour de France will be held, we thought there would be no better time to look back on Britain’s proud cycling heritage. From superb performances at the Olympics to the domination of the Tour de France, these stars on two wheels have pedalled their way into the hearts and minds of a nation.
20) Malcolm Elliott
The 1989 Vuelta a Espana points classification champion, Elliott was one of the biggest names in British cycling during the 1980s. The Sheffield-native also has two Commonwealth Games golds in the trophy cabinet.
19) Tom Simpson
Simpson was a household name in the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympic Games. Competing in an era without doping controls, he would pump his body full of all manner of substances, and it was to be that innate desire to win that would ultimately lead to his death on the bike during a 1967 Tour de France stage.
18) Bill Bradley
Bradley is still the only cyclist to ever win the Tour of Britain in consecutive years and is remembered by an older generation alongside Simpson as a heroic figure.
17) Emma Pooley
Silver in the Beijing Olympics time trial, and gold in the 2010 World Championships time trial, it’s not hard to see why Pooley was instrumental in paving the way for the generation that followed her.
16) Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead)
Silver in the London 2012 Road Race, the Yorkshire-native would go one better and win gold in the 2015 World Championships Road Race – a truly special achievement.
15) Rob Hayles
Hayles, like Pooley, was critical for laying the foundations for the successes Team GB would have after he stepped away. Bronze in the 2000 Olympics, another bronze and silver four years later added up for an impressive haul for now-pundit.
14) David Millar
A string of stage wins early in his career were marred by a significant failed drugs test, but Millar would return as a strong anti-doping activist. His redemption story would lead him to Garmin-Sharp, where he became a key figure in a talented team.
13) Beryl Burton
Beryl Burton was the fastest woman on wheels for much of the 1960s, picking up five Individual Pursuit World Championship golds. Oh yeah, she won the World Championship Road Race twice too.
12) Jo Rowsell
A pillar of that truly inspirational women’s sprint team, Rowsell collected gold both in London and Rio de Janeiro.
11) Nicole Cooke
The first gold medal for Team GB at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Cook sprinted home ahead of the field to win the Road Race. The UCI Women’s Road World Cup champion twice too, ‘The Wick Wonder’ is fondly remembered by British cycling fans.
10) Philippa York (formerly known as Robert Millar)
Philippa York was as good at climbing a mountain as anyone, evidenced by her mountains classification glory in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. A reclusive figure in her prime, York transitioned gender in 2017 and has been a part of ITV’s Tour de France coverage since then.
9) Chris Boardman
Gold at the Barcelona games in the Individual Pursuit, Boardman launched a successful career off the back of his Olympic glory. Three Tour de France stages would follow, and Boardman is now one of the most instantly recognisable cycling personalities on Britain.
8) Victoria Pendleton
‘Queen Victoria’ was one of the poster-girls for the London 2012 games, and she followed up her Beijing gold with another first-place finish in the capital with victory in the Keirin. Factor in nine World Championship golds, and you can see why Pendleton heralded as one of the greatest female cyclists of all time.
7) Laura Kenny (née Trott)
She has been eclipsed, however, by the sheer brilliance of Laura Kenny. Team Pursuit and Omnium gold medals in London, Kenny went and won both events again in Rio. Seven golds at the Worlds, 12 in the Europeans, and at the age of 27 you have to think that the Essex-native will only climb this list in the coming years.
6) Jason Kenny
Checking in just ahead of Laura is husband Jason. Kenny won his first Olympic gold in 2008 in the Team Sprint and won two more in London. Rio would elevate the Mancunian to new heights as he cruised to victory in the Team Sprint, the Individual Sprint, and the Keirin.
5) Mark Cavendish
The 2011 Tour de France points classification winner, the Manx Missile has stormed home to 30 stage victories in the most famous race of them all over the years. Add 15 Giro stage wins and an Olympic silver medal, the 34-year-old is showing that he still has something left in the tank.
4) Geraint Thomas
The first of our Tour de France winners, Thomas was an unlikely winner for Team Sky in 2018. Known simply as ‘G’, the Welshman’s performance was unlike any we’d seen before.
3) Sir Chris Hoy
There a few things ingrained in the minds of a sports fan, like Chris Hoy’s massive Scottish thighs pumping him around the velodrome at an industrial rate. Six Olympic golds, Hoy is remembered as the king of track racing.
2) Bradley Wiggins
2012 was the best year ever, bar none. The summer kicked off with Wiggins becoming the first ever Brit to win the Tour de France, and he would head onto London to win the Time Trial on a truly memorable day. That would be his fourth Olympic gold, and just to prove that he still had it, Wiggo would jet off to Rio to win another one as part of the Team Pursuit.
1) Chris Froome
The man has quite simply won the Tour de France four times. That is an absolutely astonishing feat, and when all is said and done, Froome could be heralded as the greatest cyclist of all time.