Tour de France Winners – Is Eddy Merckx The Greatest Rider In History?

Over the 125 years history of the Tour de France, there had been many heroes and unforgettable winners. In this article, we go back memory lane and look at some of the most emblematic Tour de France winners. Who has the most wins? Who has the most stage wins? Read on and you’ll find out.

Miguel Indurine
By Icon Sport

We’ll start with the note that the 7 consecutive years (1999-2005) in which the American rider Lance Armstrong won Tour de France are officially listed to be without a winner in the history books. Armstrong was stripped of all his titles after admitting he used doping but the organisers decided not to declare anyone else as a winner, so for that period Tour de France hasn’t been won as far as history records go.

Who has the most Tour de France wins in history?

The honour of having the most Tour de France wins is shared between 4 legendary riders, who have won the Tour 5 times each.

Miguel Indurain

The most recent man to do so, and also the only one to do it in 5 consecutive years, is the Spanish legend Miguel Indurain. Indurain dominated the cycling world in the early 90s and he was a 5-time Tour de France winner between 1991 and 1995.

Jacques Anquetil

The French have plenty to be proud of their Tour as 2 of the 4 5-time winners are Frenchmen. The first ever rider to be crowned Tour de France winner 5 times was Jacques Anquetil. His first triumph was in 1957. Then he failed to repeat this feat in the next 3 years and many thought that Anquetil would be a one-race wonder. However, between 1961 and 1964 Anquetil won 4 consecutive Tours to put his name in the history books.

Bernard Hinault

The other French rider that managed to win the Tour 5 times was Bernard Hinault. He had 2 back-to-back triumphs in 1978-1979 and 1981-1982, before joining the elite with his final Tour de France win in 1985.

Eddy Merckx

The last of the bunch, but arguably the best cyclist to ever ride the hills of France, is the Belgian powerhouse Eddy Merckx. Merckx won 4 consecutive Tours between 1969 and 1972. He then missed the triumph in 73 but came back to win one more time in 1974. Merckx holds another unimaginable Tour de France record but more about that is further below.

Eddy Merckx
Photo by Icon Sport

Who else has put their name in history?

There are only 4 other riders to have won more than 2 Tour titles, showing how hard it is to be crowned a Tour de France winner even once. The only rider with 4-Tour wins is the Brit Chris Froom, he won his Tours between 2013 and 2017.

The 3 riders with 3 Tour wins each are the Belgian Philippe Thys, the Frenchman Louison Bobet and the only American to ever win the Tour Greg LeMond.

Who has the most stage wins in Tour de France history?

As hinted above Eddy Merckx holds another Tour de France record and the Belgian has the most stage wins in history with 34 such triumphs to his name. Only last year he no longer sits alone at the top of that list for most stage wins though as the British sprinter Mark Cavendish joined him with his 34th stage win. Third on that list is another 5-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault with his 28 stage wins.

Is Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France record simply the best?

Tribute on the road to Eddy Merckx in the elite men road race of the UCI World Championships Road Cycling Flanders 2021 on Sunday 26 September 2021 at Leuven in Belgium.
Photo by SCS/Soenar Chamid
By Icon Sport

The Belgian Eddy Merckx holds a record that is pretty much impossible to think anyone could break. Yes. Merckx’s 34 Tour de France stage wins are now equalled by the British sprinter Mark Cavendish. Yes, Cavendish could potentially cancel his retirement plans and comeback for one more try to achieve the emblematic 35th stage win and surpass Merckx.

However, Cavendish doesn’t have a single top-10 General Classification finish at Tour de France as he is a pure sprinter. The way modern cycling goes no rider after Eddy Merckx has been able to dominate both in the mountains and sprint finishes. This is what makes Eddy so unique and arguably the greatest cyclist ever born. We can’t see anyone, ever, being able to go even close to Eddy Merckx’s combination of 5-time Tour de France winner combined with 34 stage wins.

Other Tour de France records

Most appearances: Sylvain Chavanel has taken part in 18 Tours between 2001 and 2018. A bunch of 3 riders have ridden in 17 Tours, but nobody has had a more prolonged professional career than Chavanel.

Smallest winning margin: The most dramatic Tour de France winner was Greg LeMond in 1989 when he beat the Frenchman Laurent Fignon by just 8 seconds.

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About the author


Iskra had a promising, at least she believed so, tennis and volleyball careers as a junior but a series of injuries ended her hopes to become a professional athlete very early.

Instead, she focused all her energy on her other passion, writing. For over a decade, Iskra had been a freelance sports writer. Football, basketball and tennis are the main fields of her expertise.