Great racing cyclists of the past
Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx is regarded by many as the greatest cyclist ever. As the dominant rider between the mid 60s and 70s, at his peak Merckx was winning over a third of the competitions he entered. As such, Merckx was justly dubbed 'the cannibal' for what seemed like his no-holds competitive streak, devouring every race in his path. Merckx's break came when he won the Amateur World Championship Road Race in 1964, turning professional the following year and earning his first victory in a major race at the 1966 Milan-San Remo. During his career, Merckx won almost all of the major races a total of eleven times. These include both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia 5 times as well as the Vuelta a Espana.
Bernard Hinaultwas a French cyclist and close contender for Merckx's impressive record, claiming victory in all three Grand Tours a total of 10 times, and the only rider to win each of these tours more than once. As might be expected for such a successful rider, Hinault was extremely competent in all disciplines of the Grand Tours, including climbs, sprints and time-trials. He was also a victorious one-day rider, having won the World Championship Road Race in 1980, the same year in which he had to pull out of the Tour de France due to a knee injury. In his career of 12 years, between 1974 and his retirement in 1986, Hinault bagged more than 250 professional victories.
Chris Boardman is one of the most cherished figures in British Cycling. From Hoylake, the Wirral, Boardman first caught attention at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when he won a gold medal in the individual pursuit, breaking the world record. Boardman's success put British cycling back on the map, where it hadn't won a gold medal in 72 years. Boardman has been integral in helping to propel Britain's cycling campaign during the last two decades, helping prepare the Great British cycling team for the Beijing Olympics where they once again achieved dominant success. Chris Boardman not only set exacting standards and new world records on the track, he also won 3 stages of the Tour de France on separate occasions.
No list of great racing cyclists would be complete without a nod to Bradley Wiggins, who is one of the current heirs of British cycling's reinvention. He began riding professionally in 2001 and made his first Grand Tour appearance in the 2003 Giro d'Italia. Wiggins began his cycling career as a track rider before progressing to road racing. Throughout his career to date Wiggins has found victories in the World Track Championships, winning 6 gold medals between 2003 and 2008, as well as 7 Olympic medals. In 2009 he came third in the Tour de France and third in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, before winning the Tour de France in 2012, making him one of British cycling's most prized assets and a source of national pride.
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