Who do you think is Britain’s greatest-ever cyclist? It’s a simple question, but one that is actually quite hard to answer.
How do you define greatness? It is something more than being simply based on race results. To be truly great, that person also needs to be worthy of representing British cycling, to earn their status at the top of the all-time hall of fame.
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Maybe they struggled against the odds, or raised the bar so significantly that no-one has matched them before or since. Or perhaps they were (or still are) a true ambassador for British cycling, a memorable personality that helped promote the sport to a wider audience.
Or perhaps it is a struggle to pick just one…
We recently asked Cycling Weekly‘s Facebook users who they would vote for as Britain’s greatest-ever cyclist and why they would hand that rider such an accolade. We received some well-considered answers, and present some of them below.
Do you agree with any of these answers? Has someone been missed out?
Reg Harris. Five times world sprint champion, two 1948 Olympic silver medals, all at a time when track sprinting was at its zenith – was Britain’s greatest cyclist and his record remains unbeaten. No TV, Pathé News films only, steel and aluminium materials, fixed-wheel training and no scandals about performance-enhancing drugs. My hero.
Nicole Cooke. Olympic gold, world champion many times. World Cup winner at 20 plus about every women’s race on the calendar, despite early years with so many obstacles in her way from British Cycling. She stuck to it and got so little credit for it.
David Millar. Winning Stages on the three big Tours, wearing all of the Tour de France jerseys, his honesty about being banned despite his ability to win a stage or two clean, and for being brave enough to take a stand against Lance Armstrong.
Beryl Burton or Bradley Wiggins. Beryl for the domination and length of domination she was able to sustain. Brad for the variety of his success, stage races, one-day performances that riders aiming to win wouldn’t be disappointed with, track prowess. Olympic gold on the track and road. How many other riders have managed that?
Robert Millar’s achievements in the Eighties were arguably greater than Bradley Wiggins given that team support was in Millar’s day was zero, whereas Wiggo, Froome, etc have full support from cars, team-mates who lead them all the way. Remember that Millar often started the Tour with at least 65 days of racing in his legs. Nowadays that would shock most professionals, if not all.
Bradley Wiggins gets my vote because he’s won multiple Olympic medals and a grand tour along with Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné. He’s won the national road race and time trial championships, and is the current world TT champion. What more does he need to go and win?
Mark Cavendish. World champion and only two men have ever won more stages of the Tour de France. The French have given him the accolade of the greatest ever sprinter, not just British!
Graeme Obree. He broke the mould several times. He overcame many barriers to achieve great feats and has still been an ambassador to the sport without the ego trip that a few others are hooked on.
Each week we ask ‘the Big Question’ on our Facebook page and publish the best answer in the following week’s Cycling Weekly magazine.