Olympic Cyclists and the Tour de France

Olympic cycling is popular but the greatest race in cycling is considered to be the Tour de France, held every July over 3 weeks, and being held at the moment. A number of top cyclists competed in both the Olympics and Tour de France in the amateur era (1896-1992), and now that professional cyclists are allowed in the Olympics, many of them also compete in the Tour.

Until 1996, among the top professional cyclists who have starred in the Tour de France, only a few had Olympic experience.  Three-time winner Philippe Thys (BEL-1913/14/20) never competed in the Olympics, nor did Fausto Coppi (ITA-1949/52), Louison Bobet (FRA-1953/54/55), nor Bernard Hinault (FRA-1978/79/81/82/85).

The first Olympic medalist to win the Tour was Octave Lapize, who won a bronze medal in the 1908 Olympics 100 km race, and then won the 1910 Tour. Lapize is best known from comments he made in the 1910 Tour. While ascending the Col du Tourmalet, one of the first epic climbs included in the race, he shouted at race organizers, “Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!” That stage was over 300 km with 7 difficult climbs, all raced in a single fixed-gear. Lapize was later killed in World War I.

Eddy Merckx (BEL-1969/70/71/72/74), usually considered the greatest cyclist ever, did compete in the 1964 Olympics in the individual road race, finishing 12th, which was won by Italian Mario Zanin. His son, Axel, later competed in the 2000 and 2004 road race, winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2004, but he never featured at the Tour.

Jacques Anquetil (FRA-1957/61/62/63/64), whose record of five wins was later equalled by Merckx, Hinault, and Miguel Induráin (and initially bettered by Lance Armstrong), competed in the 1952 Olympic individual road race, oddly also finishing 12th.  But Anquetil did win an Olympic medal, having been a member of the French team in the road race, which finished third in the overall team event.

The first Olympic gold medalist to have also won the Tour de France is Joop Zoetemelk (NED).  Zoetemelk won his gold medal in the 1968 104 kilometre team time trial as a member of the Dutch team.  At 34 years of age, he won his Tour de France in 1980 and, amazingly, in 1985, aged 39 years, he won the world professional road race championship, the oldest ever to achieve that feat.

The feat of winning the Olympic individual road race and the world professional road race was first achieved by Hennie Kuiper (NED), who won his Olympic gold in 1972 and took the world professional title in 1975.  Kuiper also finished second in the Tour de France twice. This was later done by Italian Paolo Bettini, who won gold in the 2004 Olympic road race and won the World Road Race Championship in 2006-07.

Greg LeMond (USA-1986/89/90), the first American to win the Tour de France and the world professional road race championship (1983/89), qualified for the United States Olympic team in 1980, but as a member of that ill-fated 1980 team, did not compete in the Olympics. Based on his performance at the 1979 World Amateur Championships, winning 3 medals, including the U23 road race gold medal, he was expected to be co-favorite in the road race with Soviet rider Sergey Sukhoruchenkov, but in LeMond’s absence, Sukhoruchenkov won the gold medal.

The following Olympic cycling medalists also won the Tour de France:

Athlete NOC Olympic Medals TdF Title(s)
Jacques Anquetil FRA 1952 Team RR (B) 1957/1961-64.
Lance Armstrong USA 2000 ITT (B) (removed) 1999-05 (removed)
Chris Froome GBR 2012 ITT (B) 2013
Miguel Induráin ESP 1996 ITT (G) 1991-95
Octave Lapize FRA 1908 100 km (B) 1910
Jan Ullrich GER 2000 ITT (G)/IndRR (S) 1997
Bradley Wiggins GBR 2000-12 – 7 medals (4/1/2) 2012
Joop Zoetemelk NED 1968 TTT (G) 1980

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *