The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Belgian Cyclists of all time. This list of famous Belgian Cyclists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Belgian Cyclists.
With an HPI of 77.16, Eddy Merckx is the most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 64 different languages on wikipedia.
Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Merckx (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɛrks]; French: [mɛʁks]; born 17 June 1945), better known as Eddy Merckx, is a Belgian former professional road and track bicycle racer who is widely seen as the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling. His victories include an unequalled eleven Grand Tours (five Tours of France, five Tours of Italy, and a Tour of Spain), all five Monuments, three World Championships, the hour record, every major one-day race other than Paris–Tours, and extensive victories on the track. Born in Meensel-Kiezegem, Brabant, Belgium, he grew up in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre where his parents ran a grocery store. He played several sports, but found his true passion in cycling. Merckx got his first bicycle at the age of three or four and competed in his first race in 1961. His first victory came at Petit-Enghien in October 1961. After winning eighty races as an amateur racer, he turned professional on 29 April 1965 when he signed with Solo–Superia. His first major victory came in the Milan–San Remo a year later, after switching to Peugeot–BP–Michelin. After the 1967 season, Merckx moved to Faema, and won the Giro d'Italia, his first Grand Tour victory. Four times between 1970 and 1974, Merckx completed a Grand Tour double. His final double also coincided with winning the men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships to make him the first rider to accomplish cycling's Triple Crown. Merckx broke the hour record in October 1972, extending the record by almost 800 meters. He acquired the nickname "The Cannibal", suggested by the daughter of a teammate upon being told by her father of how Merckx would not let anyone else win. Merckx achieved 525 victories over his eighteen-year career. He is one of only three riders to have won all five 'Monuments' (Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and the Giro di Lombardia) and the only one to have won them all twice or more. The other two are fellow Belgians Roger De Vlaeminck and Rik Van Looy. Merckx was successful on the road and also on the track, as well as in the large stage races and one-day races. He is widely thought to be the greatest and most successful rider in the history of cycling. However, Merckx was caught in three separate doping incidents during his career. Since Merckx's retirement from the sport on 18 May 1978, he has remained active in the cycling world. He began his own bicycle chain, Eddy Merckx Cycles, in 1980 and its bicycles were used by several professional teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Merckx coached the Belgian national cycling team for eleven years, stopping in 1996. He helped start and organize the Tour of Qatar from its start in 2002 until its final edition in 2016. He also assisted the Tour of Oman in running, before a disagreement with the organizers led him to step away in 2017.
With an HPI of 67.79, Rik Van Looy is the 2nd most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Henri "Rik" Van Looy (born 20 December 1933 in Grobbendonk) is a Belgian former professional cyclist of the post-war period, nicknamed the King of the Classics or Emperor of Herentals (after the small Belgian town where he lived). He was twice world professional road race champion, and was the first cyclist to win all five 'Monuments': the most prestigious one-day classics – a feat since achieved by just two others (both also Belgians: Roger De Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx). With 379 road victories he's second to Merckx only. He is ninth on the all-time list of Grand Tour stage winners with thirty-seven victories.
With an HPI of 66.96, Philippe Thys is the 3rd most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Philippe Thys (pronounced [fi.lip tis]; Dutch: Philippe Thĳs; 8 October 1889 – 16 January 1971) was a Belgian cyclist and three times winner of the Tour de France.
With an HPI of 66.48, Roger De Vlaeminck is the 4th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Roger De Vlaeminck (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈrɔʒe də ˈvlamɪŋk]; born 24 August 1947) is a Belgian former professional racing cyclist. He was described by Rik Van Looy as "The most talented and the only real classics rider of his generation". Nicknamed “The Gypsy” because he was born into a family of traveling clothiers, he is known for exploits in the cobbled classic Paris–Roubaix race, but his performances in other “Monument” races gave him a record that few can match. His record in Paris–Roubaix earned him another nickname, “Monsieur Paris–Roubaix” (English: “Mr. Paris–Roubaix“).
With an HPI of 66.15, Rik Van Steenbergen is the 5th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.
Rik Van Steenbergen (9 September 1924 – 15 May 2003) was a Belgian racing cyclist, considered to be one of the best among the great number of successful Belgian cyclists.
With an HPI of 66.03, Firmin Lambot is the 6th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Firmin Lambot (pronounced [fiʁ.mɛ̃ lɑ̃.bo]; 14 March 1886 – 19 January 1964) was a Belgian bicycle racer who twice won the Tour de France. Born in the small town of Florennes, Lambot worked as a saddler. He worked 12 hours a day, starting at 6am. He bought his first bicycle at 17 and began riding 50 km a day to and from work. His first race was in a local village; he won five francs as first prize. He then bought a racing bike. He began racing professionally in 1908. In that year he won the championships of Flanders and Belgium. He rode the Tour de France from 1911 to 1913 but the First World War ended the race for the next five years. When the Tour returned in 1919 it was a miserable affair of war-torn roads, fractured logistics and former contenders no longer alive to compete. Only 11 riders finished. Lambot was approached at the Buffalo track in Paris, where he had ridden a 24-hour race, to ride the Tour in the Globe Cycles team. He was second for much of the race but took the lead when Eugène Christophe broke a fork. Observers felt Lambot owed his victory more to Christophe's bad luck than his own ability and a collection for Christophe surpassed the prize money Lambot received. His performance brought him a contract from the larger Peugeot team at 300 francs a month. He was engaged to ride just the Tour de France. In the 1920 and 1921 Lambot placed respectably and in 1922 he won for the second time after Hector Heusghem was handed an hour penalty for swapping his bicycle after breaking the frame. He became the first to win the Tour without winning a stage. Lambot was 36 when he won the 1922 Tour, the oldest winner of one of the big cycling tours (i.e. the tours of France, Spain and Italy) at that time. He kept the record for over 90 years, until it was broken by 41-year-old Vuelta winner Chris Horner in 2013. He remains the oldest Tour winner to date. By the end of his career he was paid 1 800 francs a month by his team. In retirement, he returned to work as a saddler.
With an HPI of 65.42, Lucien Van Impe is the 7th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Lucien Van Impe (pronounced [lɵsˈjɛn vɑn ˈɪmpə]; born 20 October 1946) is a Belgian cyclist, who competed professionally between 1969 and 1987. He excelled mainly as a climber in multiple-day races such as the Tour de France. He was the winner of the 1976 Tour de France, and six times winner of the mountains classification in the Tour de France.
With an HPI of 65.24, Stan Ockers is the 8th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Constant ("Stan") Ockers (3 February 1920 in Borgerhout – 1 October 1956 in Antwerp) was a Belgian professional racing cyclist. He was runner-up in the Tour de France in 1950 and 1952, and the best sprinter in that race in 1955 and 1956. In 1955 he won the Classic "Ardennes double" by winning La Flèche Wallonne and the Liège–Bastogne–Liège in the same year. At this time the races were run on successive days as "Le Weekend Ardennais". He also won the World Cycling Championship that year. Stan Ockers died after crashing during a track race in Antwerp in 1956. A year later a monument was built in Les Forges, Sprimont, in the south of Belgium.
With an HPI of 64.40, Patrick Sercu is the 9th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.
Patrick Sercu (27 June 1944 – 19 April 2019) was a Belgian cyclist who was active on the road and track between 1961 and 1983. On track, he won the gold medal in the 1 km time trial at the 1964 Summer Olympics, as well as three world titles in the sprint, in 1963, 1967 and 1969. On the road, he earned the green jersey in the 1974 Tour de France. Sercu is the record holder for the number of six-day track race victories, having won 88 events out of 223 starts between 1961 and 1983; several of these wins were with cycling great Eddy Merckx. He also won six stages at the Tour de France and eleven stages at the Giro d'Italia.
With an HPI of 64.21, Odile Defraye is the 10th most famous Belgian Cyclist. His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.
Odile Defraye (pronounced [ɔ.dil dɛ.fʁɛj]; Dutch: Odiel Defraeye; 14 July 1888 - 21 August 1965) was a Belgian road racing cyclist who won three stages and the overall title of the 1912 Tour de France, which was the last tour decided by a points system instead of overall best time. He was the first Belgian to win the Tour and was only invited to join Alcyon's all-French team at a late stage for publicity purposes. In the 1913 Tour de France, Defraye held the overall lead after stages 2 through 5 before relinquishing the lead on the Tourmalet to Stage 6 and eventual winner Philippe Thys. He participated in six tours between 1909 and 1924 but his victory Tour was the only one that he completed.Other major wins include the 1913 Milan–San Remo, a one-day classic, and four stages and the overall for the 1912 Tour of Belgium.
Pantheon has 105 people classified as cyclists born between 1882 and 2000. Of these 105, 77 (73.33%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living cyclists include Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, and Roger De Vlaeminck. The most famous deceased cyclists include Philippe Thys, Rik Van Steenbergen, and Firmin Lambot. As of October 2020, 24 new cyclists have been added to Pantheon including Jean Aerts, Paul Deman, and Edward Van Dijck.
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Which Cyclists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Cyclists since 1700.