Who are the best 20 classical riders in
history? We gave it a thought, and tried to come up with a presentable list.
Itís very hard to compare cycling generations, so we limited ourselves to the 6
cycling monuments that have always retained their status and allure throughout
the years, together with the world championship: Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of
Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, LiŤge-Bastogne-LiŤge,
Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy.
These seven most important one-day races
seemed to be the best and fairest means of comparison, in our humble opinion.
Some races that count as world cup races nowadays (like ZŁrich or the Amstel
Gold Race) didnít have the same status in the past, while others (like the
FlÍche Wallone or Paris-Brussels) were ranked among the classics some time ago,
but have lost some of their grandeur and importance as time passed, both in
status and UCI-ratification.
This top 20 covers
a period of 60 years: from shortly before the second World War up until now.
Champions from the twenties, like Alfredo Binda, Constante Girardengo or Henri
Pelissier, to name but a few, have not been taken in consideration for this
top 20. Which isnít to say that their merits should be minimized, but the
standards were, in a prehistoric cycling age, very different. Nonetheless do we
find that this top 20 gives a fine overview, it wouldnít fluctuate much if youíd
use other judging criteria. If two riders won the same amount of classics we
used their amount of wins in the world championship as a tie-breaker, and if
they are still tied after that, the spreading and the importance of the
classics they won is what made the difference. Of the two riders in this ranking
that won exactly the same races, Louison Bobet and Hennie Kuiper, Bobet was
ranked higher because he finished 2nd in the world championship
We hope that this
ranking will remind everyone who reads it of the greatness of the old (and
current) champions in it, and stand in awe again of their
achievements, which might have become ďcommonĒ by now. With Eddy Merckx as the
absolute number one: itís only when you take a moment to go over his career
again that you realize just how extra-terrestrial it all was.
1. Eddy Merckx (22)
Sometimes, when his memories are playing
up again, Eddy Merckx wonders what magnificent career he could have had if there
hadnít been that crash on the track of Blois, in the fall of 1969. He would
never get rid of the horrible back aches that he suffered since then, and to
this day he maintains that heís never quite been his old self. It says a
lot about this rider; the greatest cyclist ever: he had many of these bouts of
complaining, even in his greatest days.
No matter how many epic exploits Eddy Merckx had in his incomparable career, or how many times people were lost for
superlatives to describe his achievements; not once did he brag about his own
abilities, or diminish those of his opponents. Eddy Merckx was the champion of
tempered joy. A man with extraordinary physical capacities, but most of all
someone with the iron will to maximize that potential. His hunger for victories
was impossible to tame, or in his own words: ďI considered each race an exam in
which I needed to get a degree of proficiency."