Tour De France All-Time Top 25 Riders, No. 5 to 1

Allen WahlstromCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2011

Tour De France All-Time Top 25 Riders, No. 5 to 1

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    For the past 5 days I have chronicled riders no, 25-6, starting with the reigning champion and possibly soon to be four time winner Alberto Contador, and finishing with the No. 6 rider in Miguel Indurain.

    Today we count down from 5 - 1 and there are a couple more surprises on the way. So follow along as wefinish the countdown

    So where do Eddy Merckx, and Lance Armstrong rate? How about "The Badger"? Read on...

No. 5: Joop Zoetemelk

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    Joop Zoetemelk is not a multiple Tour winner, but his record in 16 Tours is enough to push him past five time winner Miguel Indurain and into the top 5.

    Palmares for the Tour: 

    1 Win

    6 times Runner Up

    1 Combination Jersey

    12 times in the top 10

    He won ten stages, including Alpe d'Huez twice!

    His 16 tour finishes leaves him as the rider with the most finishes ahead of Van Impe and Ekimov at 15 Tours each. 

    His last Tour was just shy of his 40th birthday, in a time when athletes were far past their prime at 35.

No. 4: Jacques Anquetil

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    Jacques Anquetil was the first to win the Tour five times, and the first French rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish.

    He was also the first to win four straight Tours, and amassed 16 stage victories in his career.

    A great rider against the clock, Anquetil raced for money, not pride and, much like today's Tour specialists, he took great care in the details of winning. Never one to use too much energy, always just enough to win.

    When asked how he felt about a five-second victory, he replied "it was four seconds too much."

    The French did not love him as they did Poulidor, and his lack of style points did not win him many fans, but he was an amazing bike racer...

No. 3: Bernard Hinault

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    In a virtual points tie with No. 2 Hinault is arguably the second best Tour rider in History.

    "The Badger"

    Hinault won an incredible 28 stages and five Tours, from 1978-1985, and was second twice, in 1984 and 1986.

    Where Indurain and Anquetil were surgeons, slicing away minutes and seconds in ITT's, Hinault was all agression, ready to strike when an opponent showed any weakness.

    In the 1985 win he came back from a crash that broke his nose in an early sprint stage. (The photo above shows two black eyes from this crash)

    His reign could have equaled Armstrong's if not for reoccurring knee issues that kept him out of the race more than once, and forced his abandonment while leading in another.

    It is hard to believe that Hinault is the last French rider to win the Tour de France.

No. 2: Lance Armstrong

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    In a virtual tie on points with Bernard Hinault, Lance Armstrong may be the most polarizing character in recent Tour history. Of course our No. 25 rider takes a distant second...

    History may not be kind to the 7 time winner, but it will not replace the momories on "the look", and the dash across the field in what would be Joseba Beloki's devestating crash on the descent ofthe Cote de la Rochette near Gap. Or the sense of awe many felt on his first win in 99.

    Armstrong dominated Tours to the point it seemed only a matter of time before he took over and the race was out of reach, except in the epic battle with Jan Ullrich in the 2003 Tour.

    Possibly the most human moment in the Armstrong Tour archive was the solo stage victory after teammate and  Italian Olympic gold medallist Fabio Casartelli died after crashing on the descent of the Col du Portet d’Aspet, and striking his head on a concrete barrier.

    For now Armstrong sits at No. 2 

No. 1: Eddy Merckx

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    "The Cannibal."

    Eddy is the greatest bike racer of all-time, and according to the numbers is the greatest Tour rider of all-time by a rather wide margin.

    While he has two fewer wins than our No. 2 rider, his stage victories, 34, are nine more than Armstrong.

    Eddy was so dominant that the organizers asked him to not ride in 1973, and Merckx granted that wish, instead winning the Giro and Vuelta.

    Merckx won not only the yellow jersey, but the green (points) and polka dot (mountain) jerseys as well, a feat which has never been matched in a single Tour. Only Rominger and Jalabert have won all three jerseys, but in seperate Tours.

    Merckx had his run in with diversity as well when a fan kidney punched him on his run for a sixth victory. Merckx never fully recovered and lost that tour, leaving him with five wins.

    So it could be argued that Merckx could be even with Armstrong on victories, his overall record far eclipses the seven-time winner.

    And there you have it, the 25 greatest riders in Tour de France history...thanks for reading! 

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