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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Greatest ever Tour de France rider
Riders stream through the streets of Paris

As American Lance Armstrong becomes the latest man to win five Tour de France titles, the BBC Sport website stages its own virtual Tour of champions.

Legendary Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx leads the way, ahead of Frenchman Bernard Hinault.

Armstrong can only manage third, followed by Spaniard Miguel Indurain and France's Jacques Anquetil.

But do you agree with this outcome?

Who do you think is the greatest ever Tour de France champion?


This debate is now closed. See below for a selection of your e-mails.


There really is only one choice as the best and that is Eddy Merckx. It is apparent from the Tour records he holds and the other big events that he won that he is the best of the five. But all of them are riders who reached the pinnacle of Tour racing not once but five times. They are all champions deserving of the laurels they received in their triumphs.
Peter, Northern Wiscosin, USA

Miguel Indurain is one of the greatest champion of the Tour de France
Leonard, Tiarei, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Greg Lemond could have been the greatest. He lost one due to team orders. He missed two others due to the shotgun injury. In his time, he could have defeated anyone, with a smile on his face.
Peter Coffin, Berkeley, California

Eddy Merckx is the greatest name to win the greatest race run by man and machine. Simply outstanding!
Bruce Kennedy, Llantwit Major, South Wales

I think you've got it wrong - Indurain at his peak would have taken all the others to church!
James Sykes, England

Miguel Indurain is one of the greatest champion of the Tour de France. He did a good job. He's someone simple and humble. Winning the Tour five times in a row was awesome. I think that he marked the history of the Tour. He is the BEST for me.
Leonard, Tiarei, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Lance Armstrong IS the greatest ever TdF rider - NO question. He's the only cancer survivor to have won the Tour, and if you know anything about cancer and chemotherapy, or have experienced the rigours of it, then you'll KNOW he's the greatest. It's as simple as that! The others are all great but Lance IS the greatest!
Andy Anderson, BANGOR, N.Ireland

Indurain at the moment, perhaps Armstrong if he wins six
Chris Clark, East Yorkshire, UK
If we disregard Lance's cancer, Hinault's tendonitis and Merckx's Blois track crash and compare each rider against the competition at the time, I still think Merckx is the greatest Tour champion, followed by Hinault with added respect to these two for winning all types of race from April to October.
Dave, Manchester, England

It's simple, the greatest of all times is Lance Armstrong. No other rider has faced the odds he has. To come back from cancer with less than 25% chance of survival and do what he did makes every other comparison a mute point. Besides he is likely to win number six next year, this year he won the Tour in spite of not being 100% fit.
Gupta, USA

Merckx is the bext cyclist that has ever lived, it is as simple as that. You don't even need to mention the fact that he one the yellow, green and polka dot jersies all on one tour! The Cannibal is KING!
Jose Ruiz,

Indurain at the moment, perhaps Armstrong if he wins six. Remember we ar talking abour Tour de France champions here, so the others don't get a look in. Think back to some of those time trials where Indurain made the best in the world look like fools.
Chris Clark, East Yorkshire, UK

The only fair way of comparing is to strip away the advantages of the modern era - medical support, bike technology etc and base it on all five riders (and I would probably add others into the equation) using the same bike and with non of the benefits of the modern era.

Using this criteria, I would suggest it would be a close finish between Merckx (the greatest cyclist the world has ever seen!) and Anquetil. What you also have to remember is that the stage lengths in the modern era bear no resembalance to the old times where they were longer and much much tougher!
Richard Lowther, Wakefield, England

Coppi and Bartali were great champions and deserve a mention. Even if Armstrong wins six he has not had to face competition as great as Merckx, Hinault and even Indurain.
Stan, UK

You just can't compare. Respect the merits of all the champions.
John, Omaha, Nebraska
Miguel Indurain, hands down. He'd wrap up the Tour win on the first time-trial. Let's also not forget that during his five Tour wins, he won the Giro two or three times and would also finish high in the vuelta. I wasn't alive when Merckx was rockin', but in the modern area I have never seen a cyclist present so much fear of loosing than Indurain. Let's not forget Indurain has faced Armstrong mano y mano in the past.
Jay Freyensee, CA, USA

Out of the entire list of cyclists, only two really stand out: Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong. Eddy Merckx may have been a better-rounded cyclist with more competitions under his belt, but I do not think he would have had the tenacity to beat Lance.

The director of Lance's cancer research foundation, Karl Haussmann, put it best after Lance won his first Tour: "This is a guy who we saw with no hair, lying in bed barely able to move after brain surgery, and now he's won cycling's greatest race." Lance overcame testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain. The rest of these guys ride to win a bike race. Lance battles for life.
Jess Bowers, Atlanta, GA, USA

Much like doctors nowadays, you have specialists in cycling. The varying types of races combined with the new ways athletes train today has created these specialists. You can't throw a Merckx or even a Hinault in today's culture. You just can't compare. Respect the merits of all the champions.
John, Omaha, Nebraska

I think Lance Armstrong is the greatest of all
Tim Toose, USA
The competition and training are at a higher level than ever. Records in other sports are broken frequently. So, Armstrong would likely dominate the collected greats.
Ron, USA

It has to be Lance Armstrong. Any athlete can be great physically. They need only the luck of good genetics and the willingness to work hard. Armstrong has all that, but unlike other competitors has the will to make his disadvantages work to his advantage.

His almost mystical quality to reach deep inside himself and find that extra something that sets him apart and allows him to keep winning is a type of genius. His mastery of mind over body, and his pure, undiluted competitive spirit distance him from other athletes, not just in biking, but in any sport.
Jackie, USA

I think Lance Armstrong is the greatest of all. First of all, he overcame cancer. Next, he has won five Tours in a row. No one in sports has come back from a disease as bad as cancer and came back to achieve such great feats as Lance Armstrong.
Tim Toose, USA

I know it doesn't look as if I could be impartial, coming from Belgium myself, but there really can't be the slightest doubt on this one. Merckx is definitely the greatest of all, not only in his time, but throughout the history of cycling. I have a huge respect for all five contenders here, but just compare their lists of victories and it's a clear story. Eddy was in a category of his own.
Johan Gysen, Belgium

Eddy Merckx and in second place Hinault. Eddy raced for a full year and won everything he could win. Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong concentrate on winning the tour de France and once that is achieved then the season is over.

Merckx, Hinault and Anquetil were the greater cyclists
Mark, Aberdeen
Being a great cycling champion is more than winning the tour, it's about being present for a whole year, year after year. And that's something that Eddy did for many years.
Hannelore Gellynck, Belgium

Merckx would win by a mile. The fact that he won every other race at the same time and still won five Tours speaks for itself. If he was to concentrate only on the Tour de France like Armstrong did and Indurain did towards the end of his career, he would probably have won a few more easily.

Remember he also won the polka-dot and green jerseys, also won his first TDF, won mountain stages, time-trials and the got stuck in with the sprinters too.
Darryl Munro, Aberdeen, Scotland

Merckx did win five in a row, the five he actually rode. He has also won the most stages in the Tour de France, 35 in all and has 96 days in the yellow jersey.
Henry Tse, Singapore

Merckx, Hinault and Anquetil were the greater cyclists just look at their records in the classics, the Giro and the Vuelta. Armstrong is a great athlete but he only rides the Tour and has the back up of a hand picked team.
Mark, Aberdeen

Indurain, always and forever
James, UK
Coppi and Bartali should be in there somewhere. Overall goes to Merckx. He won a ludicrous amount of races as well as the tour: five Giros, four world champs, multiple wins of classics and minor tours and the hour record. What else can you say?
Steven, Lancashire

Big Mig would win.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Santa Cruz, CA

Eddy Merckx probably is the greatest because of his all round winning record (not just on the tour). I agree that Le Mond should be considered in this company because of the Hinault incident and because he was kept out of the Tour for a couple of years by a nasty shooting accident.

I also think that some of the men from the early years when no support was allowed were true hard men (as indeed these five are).
Nigel R Cairns, Bucks, England

I guess we will have to wait a year for the real answer to this question. Lance is one of the greatest "Tour De France" racers but you have to take in to account that Merckx, Anquetil and Hinault rode all Indurain, always and forever. Apart from the sheer anatomical strength of the biggest lungs I've ever heard of, and the resting pulse of under 30, the guy battered everyone into submission and never looked like he was going to lose in any of his wins. I would love to have seen him pushed, because I don't think he ever was.
James, UK

Eddy Merckx, definitely. The man is a god here in Belgium
JJ Nijs, Belgium
I really cannot rank the others, but Eddy Merckx definitely stands out among these five. Has won more races and has had yellow jerseys and stage wins than the other four.
V. Sittampalam, Medford, Mass, USA

Big Mig all the way. The Spanish machine was in a world by himself when it came down to the clock, and I remember one Tour when Lance started in front of big Mig only to see the French machine catch him then pass him like he was standing there waiting for him.
Stephan, Georgetown, Guyana

You cannot ignore Coppi and Bartali! They did not have the chance of winning five Tours, first, because of World War II and, second, because they had to face strong competition from each other. Moreover, Bartali's second victory ten years after the first will remain one of the hardest performances to beat in any sport.
Giorgio, Lausanne, Switzerland

Eddy Merckx, definitely. The man is a god here in Belgium, and definitely one of the great sports heroes of the 20th century. Just look at the sheer numbers. Merckx only participated in seven Tour de France's, in which he wore the yellow jersey for a record 96 days. One might argue that he could have won his sixth consecutive Tour in 1974, if he had participated in '73. A true cannibal.
JJ Nijs, Belgium

It must be Indurain - no-one even came close to him in the 1990's. He dominated in a manner that Armstrong hasn't. Like one chap has said - a pulse of 28 bpm (when resting) tells its own story.
Naeem, London

Miguel Indurain is the greatest tour rider
J Graham, Sydney
With top athletes like these, I think the race would come down to sheer force of will. And I'd put Merckx and Armstrong ahead of the others on that score.
Tim, USA

Didn't "Cannibal" Eddy win all three jerseys in his first Tour? 34 stage wins and 96 days in yellow! He was so dominant it was almost ridiculous, despite facing some of the most gifted cyclists ever (Poulidor, Zoetemelk, Thevenet etc). He would've won six if it wasn't for that jealous French fan.
Chris Elat, College Park, MD, US

Eddy Merckx, however if Lance bags another Tour . . .
Anthony, America

One winner...Eddy Merckx. After all, he finished his first Tour de France with the yellow jersey, the green one and the king of the mountains one on his shouders...something the other four riders can only dream about. And look at all the other races he has won...an absolute no contest.
J-Paul, Paris

Miguel Indurain is the greatest tour rider; Lance Armstrong (great though he is) would never win without his team.
J.Graham, Sydney

Ask again next year when Armstrong becomes the first to win six.
Kurt, Indiana, United States

If all five riders were to be racing today with the same bike technology and support, I would give the mantel to Eddy the Cannibal! With his tenacity and work ethic He would destroy the field!Hinault and Indurain, and Merckx were all excellent classics and tour riders while Lance is a tour specialist!
R. Lee, Vancouver, Canada

The only statement you can make on this is that Merckx was the greatest cyclist ever
Andy, Cambridge
They were all greats in their day, but I remember growing up watching Indurain dominate in the early 90's and I cannot imagine anyone beating him when he was at his peak. He was unbeatable in the time trial and more than capable in the mountains. As a purely physical specimen, he was awesome - 28 beats per minute resting heart rate tells its own story. It's Indurain for me.
Imran Ahmad, London

Not really an expert on the earlier riders but for me Indurain takes some beating. He seemed to have everything including an ability to intimidate the others cyclists into submission.
Mark, Newcastle upon Tyne

This is like comparing apples with oranges, i.e. you're comparing people from different eras when the way of racing was different so you're not comparing like with like. The only statement you can make on this is that Merckx was the greatest cyclist ever.
Andy, Cambridge

Comparing the five-times winners is unreal, given the entirely different bike technology and team tactics. While Lance is current and his life story is such an inspiration, Eddy Merckx stands out to me for winning an average of a race a week for about five years, making him something of a consistent all-round champion, not just a Tour mega winner.
Lester Peters, High Wycombe, UK

No disrespect to the other great five-time winners, but Lance Armstrong wins, easily
Erik, United States
Taking the Tour in isolation I think Armstrong or Indurain would be the strongest. As an all round rider though Merckx has to be top but back in his day you couldn't concentrate all your efforts on the one race.
Nick, Bristol, UK

My pick would be Bernard Hinault. Not the most naturally gifted cyclist of them all (to me that will always be Eddy Merckx) but Hinault had such a menacing personality that the whole pack was scared of him. His reign of the Tour will always be remembered, because of his dominating presence.
Rob, Surrey, UK

Surely Hinault, good as he was does not come above Armstrong and Big Mig. Lemond was told to ease off to let him win his fifth!
Bob McGlade, N. Ireland

No disrespect to the other great five-time winners, but Lance Armstrong wins, easily. In this day and age, with technology and dietary supplements, having a person win five in a row is amazing. Not only has he won five in a row, he has beaten cancer in order to do it.

Will-power slingshots Lance to the front. And unless a catastrophe happens, a sixth title looms next year.
Erik, United States

Merckx is certainly the best all-round cyclist of all time
Ed, London
I think perhaps you've got second and third in the wrong order. And although not a five-time winner, I'd stick LeMond in there for a podium finish, and, yes, ahead of Hinault.
Jeffrey, Milan, Italy

I think you've got it abpout right. Merckx is certainly the best all-round cyclist of all time, followed by Hinault and Armstrong. Indurain and Anquetil, though dominant in their prospective eras due to amazing time-trialing ability, wouldn't be able to live with their more versatile rivals in the mountain stages.
Ed, London

Let's split the five time winners from the five in a row winners! Indurain is miles ahead - top time trialist (individual race against the clock), top climber (look how he stuck to Greg LeMond year before his first win and how he dropped his rivals in years of his wins!)

Also, how many times did he win the Giro before winning Le Tour? Not taking away from Armstrong's efforts, but he hasn't had much competition, and if it wasn't for the team time trial he would not have been in yellow when he was! Indurain all the way, but then I was a huge fan of the big man!
Greg, London

On balance you can't look past Merckx. The Cannibal was a true all-rounder, and dominated the sport at a time when there was plenty of talent around, compared with Armstrong and Indurain, who arguably never had to face true rivalries, Eddy could beat anyone and everyone, no matter where or when. Cycling's answer to Pele and Michael Jordan... and a good start in the "Name five famous Belgians" question too.
Doug Stratton, Southend

Armstrong and Indurain both dominated for five straight years, not a feat achieved by any of the other riders
Ian Chappell, Bristol, UK
Merkx first, no doubt about it. Indurain has to be second. No one could touch him when he was wearing the yellow jersey, Amstrong tried and failed. Armstrong and Hinault tied for the third place, then Anquetil but that's probably because not many people can remember him.
Sébastien, France, UK

Bernard Hinault was a sporting idol in my childhood. He was strong in all parts of cycling, and a worthy champion. Equally at home in the sprint and in the mountains.
Neil, Aberdeen, UK

I do not agree with that outcome. Armstrong and Indurain both dominated for five straight years, not a feat achieved by any of the other riders. If the race was to take place in any one of these five years, Indurain and then Armstrong would surely come out on top.
Ian Chappell, Bristol, UK

Merckx, no contest. Modern day champions are only too concerned with winning the Tour. Merckx and others in his era competed to win EVERYTHING: the Spring classics and other Tours. It added to the character that used to make the Tour - something that's been missing for the last decade.
Tarun Patel, Gloucestershire





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VOTE RESULTS
Who is the greatest ever Tour de France champion?
Jacques Anquetil
 1.83% 
Eddy Merckx
 39.57% 
Bernard Hinault
 3.71% 
Miguel Indurain
 16.68% 
Lance Armstrong
 38.21% 
26613 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

TOUR DE FRANCE 2003


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