The Greatest Moments in Sports History. Ever.
According to us, your highly subjective editors at Outside
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Recently, we decided to poll Outside staffers on their favorite sports moments in history. We didn’t discuss our picks beforehand, but clearly a good number of us are hopeless Lance Armstrong fangirls and boys: He claims one-third of our favorite moments in this list. Below, listed in no particular order, are all the moments that made a big impact on us personally, forever altered an athlete or sport, or are just indisputably badass.
Lance Armstrong’s Off-Road Shortcut in the Tour de France
Even if you’ve never watched the Tour de France, you’ve likely come across this remarkable clip from the 2009 running of the famous stage race. Denigrate Lance Armstrong all you want, but this moment—in which he rides at speed across a steep, grassy shoulder on teeny, tiny road bike tires—unequivocally proves that the man is a phenomenal athlete. And that he deserved his TdF wins. (Discuss.)
—Axie Navas, executive editor
Jessie Diggins’ and Kikkan Randall’s Olympic Gold Medal
There’s a reason cross-country skiing is often referenced as Nordic skiing: The elite end of the sport is dominated by Nordic countries. The win by Jessie Diggins and Kikken Randall cemented the United States’ place among the top nations in this sport and brought the sport into the national consciousness in a way it hasn’t been for a long time—maybe ever. For the U.S. cross-country ski team, which has been historically underfunded (athletes often have to raise funds to get themselves to overseas competitions and training camps), increased awareness (hopefully) translates into increased interest and support.
—Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor
Honnold’s Free Solo of El Cap
I was sitting in a newsroom in Washington, D.C., last June (at another job) when a co-worker who knew little about the sport yelled out, “Holy shit!” I figured someone important was bailing on Trump’s White House. But then my co-worker asked if I knew who the hell this Alex Honnold guy was.
Honnold’s accomplishment may seem a bit too obvious, but I’m a sucker for history partly because it’s so interesting to trace a truly defining moment backwards to see all the other smaller moments that built up to it. Outside contributor Daniel Duane wrote in the New York Times shortly after Honnold’s feat that, until that day, a free solo of El Cap had been talked about in the same spirit as “science fiction buffs muse about faster-than-light-speed travel.” But back in the 1950s, people were making the same kind of comments to guys like Warren Harding, saying that just climbing El Cap was nuts. We have these kind of circular conversations about risk and sanity a lot—like we did recently when Honnold and Tommy Caldwell pulled off their sub-two on the Nose. I’m not saying these conversations aren’t necessary, but look at what the people who ignore them accomplish.
—J. Weston Phippen, senior editor
Lance Armstrong Gives Jan Ullrich “The Look”
In 2001, Lance Armstrong was going for his third Tour de France victory. Like many Americans, I was religiously watching bike race coverage live for the first time and still trying to figure out the appeal. This was the moment that hooked me. Obviously, you can’t look back at this seminal moment without acknowledging that both Armstrong and Ullrich—and seemingly everyone else in the peloton—were awash in EPO and blood transfusions. But caveats aside, the boldness of the move still stands. On one of the most legendary climbs in the Tour, l’Alpe d’Huez, Lance stares down his main rival to size him up, then brutally drops the hammer. As usual, announcer Phil Liggett captured it best: “He took a look straight into the eyes of Jan Ullrich and said, Well, here I go. Are you coming or not? And the answer is, Not.”
—Chris Keyes, editor
Margo Hayes’ Face After Sending La Rambla
When Margo Hayes sent La Rambla in February 2017, she became the first woman in the world to send a confirmed 5.15a. And not just any 5.15a, but a benchmark route that only the best of the best have climbed. Her human reaction mirrors what all of us feel when we finally do That Thing—whether it’s top out on our super-sketchy highball project or stick a move we never in a million years thought we could with a negative-three ape index (maybe that’s just me). The destination is that much sweeter when we’ve had to work for it.
—Jenny Earnest, social media manager
Greg Lemond in the 1989 Tour de France
I didn’t watch the 1989 Tour as it happened. But a few years later, when I was seven or eight, a friend and I discovered a VHS recording in his parents’ basement. Once we watched it, we were hopeless Greg Lemond fans. We’d wake up, watch a stage of the race as we ate cereal, and then hop on our bikes and ride laps on his circular driveway, huffing up the hill (elevation gain: maybe 20 feet) and crouching down over the handlebars on the downhill.
—Jonah Ogles, articles editor
Brett Tippey, Wade Simmons, Richie Schley, and Co. Riding the Gravel Pits in Kamloops, British Columbia, in ‘Kranked,’ 1998
Okay, so Darcy Hennessey Turenne actually made an entire documentary about this moment (aptly titled The Moment), and everyone should watch it. The gravel pits in Kamloops are pivotal in Turenne’s film and for mountain biking in general, which was busy finding its freeride spirit one face plant and busted frame at a time. The scene in Kranked has everything that’s great about action sports: wild personalities; an aesthetic, improbable dream that asks the human body to do unbelievable things; a healthy dose of audacity; and, of course, a little blood and dirt in the mouth.
—Abigail Barronian, assistant fitness editor
Lance Armstrong’s Crash and Comeback on Luz Ardiden
It was 2003, Lance Armstrong was going for his fifth Tour de France win, and I was just a teenager. My family had always tuned in to the Tour, but 2003 was the first time I really took an interest in the race. And what a race it was that year. Armstrong’s longtime foil Jan Ullrich had a chance to actually win, and the Texan somehow seemed human that year. Of all the stages, I’ll never forget Armstrong’s handlebar clipping a fan, his fall, and everything that happened next: Ullrich letting up on the pace, and Armstrong catching back on and attacking. That day made a lifelong fan of the sport and Armstrong out of me.
—Scott Rosenfield, digital editorial director
Lynn Hill Frees the Nose
Long before the days of Sasha, Ashima, and Margo, Lynn Hill busted through gender barriers in the climbing world. In 1993, Hill became the first person—not the first woman!—to free-climb the Nose on El Cap in Yosemite National Park. She was already well-known at the time, but sending the 31-pitch route forever sealed her legacy and paved the way for women in a historically bro-centric sport. After she sent it, Hill famously said, “It goes, boys.”
—Abigail Wise, online managing editor