Rough Attempt at an All-Time Ranking

As a child in the late eighties I wondered why cycling, unlike tennis, didn't have a decent world ranking. So I started keeping my own list: 50 points for the Tour winner, 25 points for Paris-Roubaix etc. It was very incomplete, based on the results I found in newspapers. Later, in the late 1990s, I started doing it again. That time I started using books on cycling with old results to compile an all-time list. It's hard to decide which result is worth how many points. What's worth more: finishing third in the Tour, winning three sprint stages in the Giro, or winning Gent-Wevelgem? I came quite far back then, but I stopped keeping track in the following years.

Now with the Internet it's easier to look up old results, so after years of postponing I had a new attempt at compiling an all-time list based on points. The point system is just the one I've been using for myself; it has no official value. It's mostly about wins in big races. I'm too lazy to count every stage win in one-week races and all those places of honour. I'm sure I've also made a lot of mistakes, because I'm too lazy to check everything twice. So I made a ranking which is, as the title says, only a rough attempt at an all-time list. It only gives a basic idea of what an all-time ranking of men's road cycling could look like if it was done properly.

This is the point system [Edited 10/15/2023]:
Stage races:
*60/25/10/8/6/5/4/3/2/1 for top 10 GC in Tour
*40/20/8/6/5/4/3/2/1/1 for top 10 GC in Giro/Vuelta
*20 points for GC win in Paris-Nice/Dauphiné/Tirreno/Basque Country/Suisse
*10 points for GC win in Critérium International/Midi Libre/Catalunya/Burgos/Romandie
*5 points for GC win in smaller stage race

*5 points for stage/points classification/King of the mountains in Tour
*4 points for stage/points classification/King of the mountains in Giro/Vuelta
*2 points for stage in Paris-Nice/Tirreno/Basque Country/Dauphiné/Suisse

*40/16/8 points for top 3 road race at WC/Olympics since 1996
*10 points for road race at EC//NC France/Belgium/Italy/Spain
*5 points for road race other countries

*20/10/5 points for top 3 ITT at WC/Olympics since 1996
*5 points for ITT at EC//NC France/Belgium/Italy/Spain
*3 points for ITT other countries

*25/10/5 points for top 3 Monument
*15 points for GP des Nations/Gent-Wevelgem/Flèche Wallonne/Amstel/Strade Bianche/San Sebastián
*10 points for Omloop/E3/Emilia/Milan-Turin/Plouay/Paris-Tours/Bordeaux-Paris/Züri Metzgete/Hamburg
*5 points for other semi-classics

In case of a tie the biggest win makes the difference.

Of course this could lead to endless discussions about what is worth how many points. This system was not designed to benefit certain riders. One specific problem for the current century are the many disqualifications and Green Table decisions. I decided to follow the official results, even if I disagree personally with certain decisions.

The result contains quite a few surprises: some riders finished much higher or lower than I expected myself. Hard workers with a long and steady career finish higher than cyclists with three fabulous seasons who faded afterwards. Some almost forgotten names finish higher than some of the big stars. All-round riders tend to do better than specialists of one discipline. I'm thinking of presenting the top list as a countdown in this thread. In spite of its obvious flaws I think the result is quite interesting and can lead to good discussions in the winter season.

This is the updated version of the top 200 at the end of 2023, with active riders in bold.

1 Eddy Merckx 2027
2 Bernard Hinault 1266
3 Jacques Anquetil 1075
4 Fausto Coppi 1032
5 Gino Bartali 1009
6 Sean Kelly 958
7 Alejandro Valverde 921
8 Roger De Vlaeminck 873
9 Francesco Moser 830
10 Alfredo Binda 789
11 Felice Gimondi 778
12 Miguel Induráin 763
13 Rik Van Looy 688
14 Costante Girardengo 675
15 Joop Zoetemelk 657
16 Chris Froome 656
17 Fabian Cancellara 637
18 Louison Bobet 621
19 Alberto Contador 619
20 Laurent Jalabert 619
21 Tadej Pogačar 614
22 Tony Rominger 600
23 Giuseppe Saronni 599
24 Primož Roglič 599
25 Vincenzo Nibali 594
26 Freddy Maertens 594
27 Tom Boonen 523
28 Peter Sagan 520
29 Rik Van Steenbergen 484
30 Fiorenzo Magni 475
31 Learco Guerra 474
32 Ferdi Kübler 473
33 Philippe Gilbert 454
34 Franco Bitossi 452
35 Johan Museeuw 446
36 Erik Zabel 442
37 Luis Ocaña 441
38 Mario Cipollini 436
39 Paolo Bettini 432
40 Greg LeMond 429
41 Raymond Poulidor 425
42 Jan Ullrich 423
43 Gianni Bugno 423
44 Laurent Fignon 418
45 Jan Raas 416
46 Mark Cavendish 415
47 Moreno Argentin 409
48 Nairo Quintana 388
49 Nicolas Frantz 385
50 Alex Zülle 378
51 Joaquim Rodríguez 377
52 Herman Vanspringel 369
53 Oscar Freire 359
54 Alexander Vinokourov 356
55 Charly Gaul 348
56 Hugo Koblet 339
57 Walter Godefroot 336
58 Michele Bartoli 335
59 Gaetano Belloni 334
60 Jan Janssen 332
61 Henri Pélissier 332
62 Antonin Magne 331
63 Remco Evenepoel 331
64 Wout van Aert 329

65 Charly Mottet 324
66 André Leducq 323
67 Stephen Roche 322
68 Pedro Delgado 322
69 Giovanni Brunero 322
70 Bernard Thévenet 317
71 Claudio Chiappucci 317
72 Cadel Evans 309
73 François Faber 307
74 Julian Alaphilippe 307
75 Philippe Thys 305
76 Vittorio Adorni 303
77 Abraham Olano 303
78 Rudi Altig 303
79 Alessandro Petacchi 300
80 Hennie Kuiper 296
81 Roberto Heras 289
82 Gustave Garrigou 284
83 Davide Rebellin 276
84 Briek Schotte 275
85 Mathieu van der Poel 274
86 Gianbattista Baronchelli 273
87 Bradley Wiggins 269
88 Fred De Bruyne 265
89 Gianni Motta 264
90 André Darrigade 263
91 Nino Defilippis 262
92 Lucien Van Impe 261
93 Gilberto Simoni 258
94 Phil Anderson 255
95 Federico Bahamontes 254
96 Marino Lejarreta 253
97 Damiano Cunego 252
98 Jonas Vingegaard 250
99 Stan Ockers 249
100 Tony Martin 246
101 Julián Berrendero 242
102 Eric Vanderaerden 242
103 Marco Pantani 241
104 Michał Kwiatkowski 240
105 Michel Pollentier 239
106 Geraint Thomas 238
107 Samuel Sánchez 237
108 Rolf Sørensen 236
109 Danilo Di Luca 234
110 Francesco Casagrande 234
111 Jean Stablinski 232
112 Ivan Basso 230
113 Pascal Richard 227
114 Delio Rodríguez 226
115 Raymond Impanis 224
116 Greg Van Avermaet 222
117 Sylvère Maes 221
118 Lucien Petit-Breton 218
119 Gastone Nencini 218
120 Dietrich Thurau 218
121 Alexander Kristoff 216
122 Octave Lapize 210
123 Marcel Kint 210
124 Tom Dumoulin 208
125 Gerrie Knetemann 208
126 Arnaud Démare 207
127 Thor Hushovd 206
128 Carlos Sastre 205
129 Robbie McEwen 204
130 Richard Carapaz 204
131 Denis Menchov 203
132 Stefano Garzelli 202
133 Adrie van der Poel 202
134 Claude Criquielion 200
135 Luis Herrera 198
136 Miguel María Lasa 198
137 Michele Dancelli 197
138 Pavel Tonkov 196
139 Ottavio Bottecchia 195
140 Giovanni Battaglin 195
141 Eddy Planckaert 195
142 Giuseppe Olmo 194
143 Richard Virenque 193
144 Georges Ronsse 192
145 Miguel Poblet 192
146 José Manuel Fuente 189
147 Jean Alavoine 189
148 Guido Bontempi 187
149 Georges Speicher 186
150 Heiri Suter 185
151 Maurizio Fondriest 182
152 Andy Schleck 181
153 Andrei Tchmil 181
154 Frans Verbeeck 181
155 Mariano Cañardo 180
156 Egan Bernal 177
157 Peter Van Petegem 174
158 Adolfo Leoni 174
159 Carlo Galetti 172
160 John Degenkolb 172
161 Joaquim Agostinho 172
162 Maurice De Waele 171
163 Ercole Baldini 171
164 Jakob Fuglsang 170
165 Luigi Ganna 170
166 Italo Zilioli 170
167 Louis Trousselier 168
168 Germain Derycke 168
169 Frank Vandenbroucke 168
170 Erik Breukink 168
171 Andreas Klöden 167
172 Rui Costa 166
173 Pasquale Fornara 166
174 Roger Pingeon 164
175 Roger Lapébie 164
176 Franco Balmamion 164
177 Tom Simpson 163
178 Simon Yates 163
179 Jef Planckaert 163
180 Tom Steels 161
181 Firmin Lambot 160
182 Gaston Rebry 159
183 Domingo Perurena 158
184 Laurent Dufaux 157
185 Robert Millar 156
186 Ritchie Porte 156
187 Andrew Hampsten 155
188 Andrea Tafi 155
189 Giovanni Valetti 154
190 Daniel Martin 154
191 Steven Rooks 154
192 Eric Leman 154
193 Fränk Schleck 154
194 Rigoberto Urán 154
195 Marino Basso 153
196 André Greipel 153
197 Paolo Savoldelli 152
198 Edvald Boasson Hagen 152
199 Bjarne Riis 151
200 Maurice Garin 150
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How can you even make a points based ranking where he doesn't end up on top? The guy has 26 podiums in major races, who is even close to that?
Because he has one GT while Contador and Froome have 7. Nibali have 4 GTs and 3 monuments. Boonen have 7 monuments and Worlds. There are a lot of good candidates, and Valverde is very far from being the obvious choice as the best rider in the 2000s.

Edit: That depends totally on how the points based ranking is made. How many races does it include? How big a diffence are there between the top spots. And so on......

And it's not just that he is on top, but how far ahead of the others he is........
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How can you even make a points based ranking where he doesn't end up on top? The guy has 26 podiums in major races, who is even close to that?
Because second and third places don't separate the best from the rest.

Contador, Froome, Nibali and Boonen are all undoubtedly ahead in that regard, Gilbert probably is as well (especially if you can find a way to factor in the diversity in terrain he's won big races on), and Pogacar is catching up fast but is too young to have accumulated a lot of points yet. Valverde should probably be in sixth right now, just ahead of the likes of Sagan, Cavendish and Bettini (and Pogacar, for the time being).

Or to put it another way: Valverde is fourth of all time on that list, only behind Merckx, Kelly and Bartali. Can you really make the case that he's greater than for example Hinault or Coppi?
No but if you have to make a points based ranking, you have to engineer it quite ridiculously if you want someone else at the top.

Or maybe it's just that annual rankings really overrate lesser races and podiums and lesser placings precisely cause it's the point of annual rankings to legitimize the lesser races more so thant the biggest races that everyone would love to win even if it gave 0 points.

And many of these all time rankings just add all the yearly points together. If you just look at point valuations of certain achievements there are so many absolute piss takes to not dismiss the rankings entirely.

So when a ranking goes something like Rebellin > Contador/Nibali with Valverde at #4, I don't think it's ridiculous at all to suggest reengineering it a LOT.
Or to put it another way: Valverde is fourth of all time on that list, only behind Merckx, Kelly and Bartali. Can you really make the case that he's greater than for example Hinault or Coppi?

If you asked fans to rank the best cyclists of all time, most would probably always put Hinault and Coppi ahead of Valverde. Bala also simply had an insanely long career at a consistently high level. With Hinault it was only eleven years and he rode from 1983 clearly less successful, because of his knee problems.

It would also be interesting to see where Coppi and Bartali would be if the war hadn't stolen so many years from them.

The operators write the following on their page:

This is the overall all time ranking of the most successful professional cyclists in the world since 1869. Use the year and country filters below to look at the same overall ranking until a specific year in the past and/or for a specific country. Riders score points based on their results in the races. These points depend on the (historic) importance of the race, the competition during the race and the toughness of the course. Click on any rider to get an all time overview of the rider with details on the scores and rank for the various seasons and the most important results for each year.

Of course, this is not very transparent, if you put a ranking on a numerical basis. However, if it were presented transparently to the outside world, it would be a very good method. So points also according to the field of participants and thus the strength of the competition to assign.

In any case, in my eyes you can't evaluate every race of the last seventy years according to the same criteria. The importance was partly completely different, the starting fields were completely different and many riders had twice the number of race days compared to today, and so on. It was a different sport. Even 25 years ago with pro's and amateur pro's.
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Any all-time-great system that ranks Majka higher than Pogačar has some inherent flaws.

There’s a lot more to it than just saying a win at some event is worth x, at another event y etc. It’s how you win, it’s who you beat… maybe if these analyses employed machine learning, they could yield better results…
Or maybe it's just that annual rankings really overrate lesser races and podiums and lesser placings precisely cause it's the point of annual rankings to legitimize the lesser races more so thant the biggest races that everyone would love to win even if it gave 0 points.
I do think that annual rankings should take wins in lesser races and placements in the biggest ones into account to a greater degree than all-time rankings though. In a year, there are 9-10 really big races (GTs, WC and Olympic RR, monuments), no cyclists can compete for more than half of these in the same season in modern cycling. Whether a rider manages to win one of those 4-5 races in a year doesn't tell as much about how good his year was, otherwise Zaugg beats the Schlecks in 2011, for example. Over an entire career, that kind of thing evens out because the sample size is much larger and hence those big wins should count a lot more heavily relative to everything else. There isn't that much randomness to the amount of monuments and GTs a rider accumulates in 10-15 years, if someone keeps falling just short it's usually mostly down to their skills rather than a bit of luck, but that isn't the case on an annual basis.
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Interesting discussions! We'll see which expectations turn out to be right, and how the result compares to the one on CyclingRanking.

So here comes the countdown: the top 150 of men’s road cycling. These ten riders only just make the cut:

150 Marcel Kittel 176
149 John Degenkolb 177
148 Tom Steels 178
147 Peter Van Petegem 178
146 Ivan Basso 180
145 Eddy Planckaert 181
144 Adrie van der Poel 182
143 Roger Lapébie 183
142 Nino Defilippis 184
141 Marino Basso 185

Seventeen riders in this list are still active. Their names will be in bold.

In case of ex aequo the advantage goes to the biggest win. Van Petegem is ahead of Steels, because the Tour of Flanders is bigger than Gent-Wevelgem.

Sometimes there are weird coincidences. Three sprinters at the bottom. Marino Basso ends up higher than his unrelated namesake. I like the mixture of prehistoric and more recent champions.
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Monuments are undervalued. They should be closer to WC/Olympics and more above one-week races (i.e. 30 pts). As for the all time ranking my spoiler is:

  1. Merckx
  2. Hinault
  3. Coppi
The Italian would have had a shot at being the GOAT if the war hadn't taken away a few years of his prime.
For the record, here's more or less what I'd use for an all-time ranking:

60 points for a Tour win. 20 and 12 points for 2nd and 3rd, 6 points for a stage, points jersey or KOM jersey win

45 points for a Giro or Vuelta win. 15 and 9 points for 2nd and 3rd, 4.5 points for a stage, points jersey or KOM jersey win

40 points for a Worlds or Olympic RR win. 10 and 6 points for 2nd and 3rd (think its fair to have placements count less in a one-day race)

30 points for a monument win (so that all 5 monuments = all 3 GTs). 7.5 and 4.5 points for 2nd and 3rd.

15 points for the other main one-day races. Difficult to agree on which races should count, I'd go with:

Bordeaux-Paris (until 1980, to mirror its fall and the introduction of San Sebastian)
GP des Nations (until 1993, the final edition before the TT became a Worlds discipline)
Züri Metzgete (until its final edition in 2006)
Paris-Tours (until it wasn't included in the WT, so until 2011)
Flèche Wallonne
Amstel Gold Race (from 1966)
Clasica San Sebastian (from 1981)
Worlds TT (from 1994)
Olympic TT (from 1996)
Strade Bianche (from 2012, mirroring Paris-Tours)

15 points for the main smaller stage races:
Euskal Herriko Itzulia
Tour de Suisse
Critérium du Dauphiné
Peace Race (until the fall of the Wall)

This keeps the included races somewhat consistent on an annual basis.

Small races really don't matter in an all-time ranking to me. The amount of GP Indurains or Tour Down Under stages won has no bearing on which rider I consider to have had a better career (sorry, André). You could argue that the number of smaller races should be expanded, but it's difficult to do so in a way that doesn't benefit more recent generations. I also don't like using national championships, as it helps riders from certain nations no matter which way you incorporate them.

I've contributed to hijacking the thread more than enough now...
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