Time will tell if Chris Froome, the likely winner of the 2013 Tour, will be added to the pantheon of cycling legends. Until then, we look back on the race's greatest living heroes. Photos from the new book Tour de France 100: A photographic History of the World's Greatest Race.
Nobody devoured more foes than Eddy Merckx. Perhaps the greatest cyclist ever, "the Cannibal"—a six-foot, 165-pound powerhouse—was uniquely lethal in all disciplines, from time trials to mountain stages. In 13 years, Merckx won an astonishing 476 pro races, taking not just five Tours de France but also five Giros d'Italia and seven Milan-San Remos. Since 1980 he's headed the Belgium-based Eddy Merckx company, which builds racing bikes.
— Andrew Taber
Bernard Hinault wasn't quite as flamboyant as France's other five-time winner, the late Jacques Anquetil—who reportedly swigged champagne from his water bottle during one Tour—but he always got the job done. Nicknamed "the Badger" for his tenacity, the five-eight, 149-pound Hinault scored 28 stage wins in eight Tours de France, a figure second only to Eddy Merckx's 34. He retired in 1986 and became a farmer in his native Brittany.
Greg Lemond became the first non-European to win the Tour (and the only American following the disqualifications of Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis) in 1986. After helping a fragile Bernard Hinault win the 1985 edition of the race, Lemond was promised the full support of his team—including Hinault—in 1986. The support wasn't forthcoming, with Hinault repeatedly attacking Lemond throughout the race. After overcoming his teammate to win the Tour, Lemond was accidentally shot while hunting in 1987 and sat out the next two editions of the race, returning to win in 1989 on the final stage. He successfully defended his title, claiming his third and final Tour victory in 1990. Upon retirement in 1994, Lemond founded LeMond Bicycles and later became an avowed critic of doping.
Miguel Indurain reigned so completely over the Tour that he won five in a row, becoming the first (and until Lance Armstrong, only) rider to accomplish the feat. In the process, "Big Mig" established himself as Spain's greatest sportsman—a star whose determination was exceeded only by his shyness. Renowned for his imposing size (six-two, 176 pounds), Indurain posses an extraordinary lung capacity, a resting heart rate—28 beats per minutes—that would qualify most humans as dead, and monster talent, especially in time trials. The farmer's son retired in 1997.
Before being stripped of his titles for doping, Lance Armstrong was the most winning rider in Tour history, taking home seven consecutive Tours de France starting in 1999. After famously combing back from cancer, Armstrong dominated the race, winning on mountain stages and in the time trials. After announcing his retirement in 2005, Armstrong returned to finish third behind Alberto Contador in 2009 before retiring for good in 2010 after finishing 23rd in the race.