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 10/30/2021]:
Stage races:
*50/25/10/8/6/5/4/3/2/1 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

*40/20/10 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

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

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.

So here's the top 170, with active riders in bold. [SPOILER ALERT!] [Edited 10/30/2021]

1 Eddy Merckx 1977
2 Bernard Hinault 1218
3 Jacques Anquetil 1029
4 Fausto Coppi 1014
5 Gino Bartali 989
6 Sean Kelly 967
7 Alejandro Valverde 937
8 Roger De Vlaeminck 877
9 Francesco Moser 843
10 Alfredo Binda 791
11 Felice Gimondi 774
12 Miguel Induráin 733
13 Rik Van Looy 706
14 Costante Girardengo 679
15 Fabian Cancellara 671
16 Joop Zoetemelk 657
17 Laurent Jalabert 628
18 Chris Froome 616
19 Giuseppe Saronni 605
20 Freddy Maertens 603
21 Tony Rominger 600
22 Louison Bobet 599
23 Alberto Contador 599
24 Vincenzo Nibali 578
25 Tom Boonen 525
26 Peter Sagan 513
27 Rik Van Steenbergen 486
28 Learco Guerra 482
29 Fiorenzo Magni 479
30 Ferdi Kübler 469
31 Erik Zabel 467
32 Philippe Gilbert 459
33 Franco Bitossi 458
34 Johan Museeuw 451
35 Paolo Bettini 436
36 Mario Cipollini 436
37 Primož Roglič 435
38 Raymond Poulidor 435
39 Luis Ocaña 433
40 Jan Raas 426
41 Gianni Bugno 425
42 Jan Ullrich 423
43 Moreno Argentin 415
44 Greg LeMond 407
45 Laurent Fignon 398
46 Mark Cavendish 396
47 Alex Zülle 383
48 Joaquim Rodríguez 383
49 Herman Van Springel 378
50 Nicolas Frantz 376
51 Nairo Quintana 375
52 Oscar Freire 366
53 Alexander Vinokourov 360
54 Charly Gaul 340
55 Michele Bartoli 339
56 Henri Pélissier 337
57 Jan Janssen 336
58 Walter Godefroot 336
59 Gaetano Belloni 334
60 Hugo Koblet 329
61 Charly Mottet 328
62 Giovanni Brunero 322
63 Claudio Chiappucci 321
64 Antonin Magne 315
65 Stephen Roche 314
66 Pedro Delgado 312
67 Tadej Pogačar 310
68 André Leducq 308
69 Abraham Olano 308
70 François Faber 307
71 Vittorio Adorni 307
72 Rudi Altig 307
73 Alessandro Petacchi 305
74 Julian Alaphilippe 303
75 Cadel Evans 299
76 Bernard Thévenet 297
77 Hennie Kuiper 296
78 Roberto Heras 289
79 Briek Schotte 285
80 Gustave Garrigou 284
81 Philippe Thys 280
82 Bradley Wiggins 279
83 Gianbattista Baronchelli 277
84 Davide Rebellin 276
85 André Darrigade 271
86 Fred De Bruyne 270
87 Tony Martin 266
88 Nino Defilippis 266
89 Gianni Motta 264
90 Phil Anderson 260
91 Gilberto Simoni 253
92 Marino Lejarreta 253
93 Lucien Van Impe 251
94 Stan Ockers 251
95 Damiano Cunego 251
96 Rolf Sørensen 245
97 Federico Bahamontes 244
98 Julián Berrendero 242
99 Eric Vanderaerden 242
100 Michel Pollentier 239
101 Samuel Sánchez 237
102 Danilo Di Luca 234
103 Francesco Casagrande 234
104 Marco Pantani 233
105 Jean Stablinski 232
106 Ivan Basso 230
107 Miguel Poblet 229
108 Pascal Richard 227
109 Greg Van Avermaet 227
110 Delio Rodríguez 226
111 Didi Thurau 226
112 Raymond Impanis 224
113 Gastone Nencini 218
114 Michał Kwiatkowski 217
115 Alexander Kristoff 217

116 Octave Lapize 215
117 Wout Van Aert 215
118 Marcel Kint 214
119 Tom Dumoulin 213
120 Adrie van der Poel 211
121 Gerrie Knetemann 208
122 Robbie McEwen 208
123 Thor Hushovd 206
124 Lucien Petit-Breton 203
125 Denis Menchov 203
126 Stefano Garzelli 202
127 Sylvère Maes 201
128 Michele Dancelli 201
129 Claude Criquielion 200
130 Richard Virenque 200
131 Luis Herrera 198
132 Miguel María Lasa 198
133 Pavel Tonkov 196
134 Carlos Sastre 195
135 Heiri Suter 195
136 Eddy Planckaert 195
137 Giovanni Battaglin 195
138 Georges Ronsse 194
139 Giuseppe Olmo 194
140 Guido Bontempi 193
141 José Manuel Fuente 189
142 Jean Alavoine 189
143 Georges Speicher 186
144 Andrei Tchmil 186
145 Maurizio Fondriest 182
146 Frans Verbeeck 181
147 Peter Van Petegem 180
148 Geraint Thomas 178
149 Ottavio Bottecchia 175
150 Jakob Fuglsang 174
151 Joaquim Agostinho 172
152 Andy Schleck 171
153 Ercole Baldini 171
154 Italo Zilioli 170
155 Frank Vandenbroucke 168
156 Erik Breukink 168
157 Egan Bernal 167
158 Rui Costa 166

159 Guido Reybrouck 165
160 Maurice De Waele 161
161 Tom Steels 161
162 Richard Carapaz 160
163 Jo de Roo 159
164 Louis Trousselier 158
165 Steven Rooks 158
166 Edvald Boasson Hagen 156
167 André Greipel 155

168 Roger Pingeon 154
169 Roger Lapébie 154
170 Daniel Martin 154
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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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