The Tour de France is the world’s largest bicycle race. It’s annually held in France since 1903, only stopping for the two World Wars. Here is a short list of the top five winners of the race from a historical aspect, each man was the first to either win the race, or win the race a certain number of times.
5. Henri Cornet (winner in 1904) – He won the second Tour de France ever. The reason he is on the list and the man who won the first Tour de France isn’t is simple, Maurice Garin, winner of the first race and original winner of the second, was stripped of the win for being pulled along by or riding in cars during the race. Which really seemed like par for the course, as during the race there were reports of mobs beating up racers, participants dropping tacks to pop tires of those behind them, and much more. Henri Cornet was the first racer in the 1904 Tour de France not found cheating and was awarded the victory. He is also the youngest man to ever win, at age nineteen, less then a month before his twentieth birthday.
4. Lucien Petit-Breton (winner 1907 and 1908) – The first man to win the Tour de France twice. His real name was Lucien Georges Mazan, but to deceive his father, who wanted him to get a “real” job, he adopted the pseudonym Lucien Breton. Lucien soon changed the pseudonym to Petit-Breton as a cyclist named Lucien Breton was already racing. His first win in 1907, featured a lower amount of sabotage by racers and onlookers, the previous leader, Emile Georget, who was leading in stage 9, but was penalized for changing bikes. Lucien finished first in the end and was the heavy favorite in the 1908 race, which featured nearly the same course, the Frenchman did not disappoint, winning five of the stages and the over all race.
3. Philip Thys (winner 1913, 1914, and 1920) – The first man to win the Tour de France three times. Not only did he break the former record, but he also did it over a span of eight years. World War I put the race on pause from 1915-1918, and impressively the Belgian Philip Thys was still in good enough shape after the years away thanks to the war. During the 1913 Tour de France, the fork on his bicycle broke, and he had it fixed which cost him a thirty minute penalty, even with the added time, he still ended the race two minutes faster then anyone else. Who knows how many victories he could have had if not for the war, his three peat record did hold for many years though. In 1955 Louis Bobet tied the record, it wasn’t beaten until the next man on our list.
2. Jacques Anquetil (winner 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964) – The first man to win the Tour de France both four times, breaking Philip Thys and Louis Bobet’s records but also winning it for the fifth time. Before the 1961 Tour de France, the Frenchman claimed he would be wearing the yellow jersey (signifying the general classification leader) throughout the entire race. It was a very bold statement as no man had ever won every stage before, and there were two previous winners in the race as well. Amazingly, from day one to the final, Jacques was awarded the yellow jersey to win his second Tour de France. Since Jacques fifth victory, Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, and Eddy Merckx have all successfully won the Tour de France five times, and only one cyclist has beat their shared record.
1. Lance Armstrong (winner 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005) – The face of the cycling sport today. Lance has won the Tour de France a record seven times in his career. Over this time he has become an international celebrity and raised American interest in the race itself. He’s given awards for best of the year in sports over all by Sports Illustrated (2002), the Associated Press (2002-2005), and ESPN (2003-2005). He officially retired from professional cycling after the Tour de France in 2005, but last year he announced he was coming out of retirement with a single goal in mind, to win the Tour de France in 2009.