The world of professional cycling has become more welcoming and supportive of women in sports; let’s learn about famous female cyclists who paved the way.
Cycling has seen a tremendous rise in talented female athletes, making their mark on the sport and inspiring future generations. From mountain biking to road racing, these exceptional women have proven that their skills, determination, and passion can drive them to the pinnacle of success.
Among the most remarkable female cyclists are Kristin Armstrong, Evie Stevens, and Laura Kenny – each with impressive achievements to their name. They have not only dominated their respective events but also created a lasting impact through their performances. Today’s aspiring riders are following in their footsteps, further solidifying the presence of women in this exciting sport.
The growing prominence of female cyclists is a testament to their dedication and hard work. As they continue to make history, they break down barriers, proving that the sport knows no gender boundaries and that excellence is achievable through talent, grit, and determination. You might also be interested in our round-up of famous female triathletes.
- 1 Pioneering Women Cyclists
- 2 Road Racing Champions
- 3 Track Cycling Stars
- 4 Mountain Biking Legends
- 5 Cyclocross Standouts
Pioneering Women Cyclists
1. Annie Londonderry
Annie Londonderry, born Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, was born in Latvia but emigrated to the United States. In 1894, she began a unique journey – attempting to become the first woman to cycle around the world.
Londonderry’s trip took her through Europe, Asia, and North America. She faced various challenges, from rough terrain to cultural differences. Along the way, she funded her adventure by giving lectures and selling promotional items. She successfully completed the journey within 15 months, proving women’s capabilities in endurance sports.
2. Alfonsina Strada
Alfonsina Strada was an Italian athlete who broke barriers for women in professional cycling. Born in 1891, she developed a passion for the sport at a young age and began participating in local races.
In 1924, Strada made history by becoming the first and only woman to compete in the Giro d’Italia. She was initially registered under an ambiguous name to hide her gender, but her true identity was eventually revealed. Despite the controversy, she completed the race and gained significant attention from the international cycling community.
Decades after Strada’s stunt, the Giro Donne, initially called the Giro d’Italia Femminile, was created in 1988 to allow women to take part in the prestigious race.
Road Racing Champions
3. Kristin Armstrong
Kristin Armstong got her start as a swimmer and runner, which led to her becoming a triathlete. After she received an osteoarthritis diagnosis in her late 20s, she only stuck with cycling.
The athlete has two Olympic medals; she came first in the women’s road race time trial in the 2008 Summer Games. Then, at the next Olympics in 2012, she won the individual time trial. After winning the same race yet again in 2016, she became the first-ever cyclist to nab a gold medal in one discipline on three occasions.
4. Marianne Vos
Marianne Vos is a Dutch professional cyclist known for her versatility and dominance in multiple disciplines. Since the beginning of her career, she has shown consistent success in road racing, track cycling, and cyclocross.
She is an Olympic gold medalist, having beaten the road race in the 2012 London Games. Vos is an eight-time Cyclocross World Champion and three-time Road Race World Champion.
5. Jeannie Longo
Jeannie Longo is a legendary French cyclist known for her longevity and incredible performances in road racing. As one of the greatest female cyclists of all time, she has won numerous championships and previously held the world record in the women’s hour.
She was the World Champion on thirteen occasions; five times in the road race, four times in the time trial, and four times on the track. Longo also took home the gold in the road race at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
6. Anna Van Der Breggen
Anna van der Breggen is another esteemed Dutch professional cyclist who has made significant accomplishments in road racing. She is especially well-known for her outstanding climbing abilities and time-trial skills. A few key achievements from her career so far are:
- Three UCI Road World Championship wins
- First place in the road race at the 2016 Olympics
- Seven La Flèche Wallonne Féminine wins
7. Ayesha McGowan
Ayesha McGowan is proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams; she was 26 years old when she made her racing debut in 2014. She got off to a flying start when, later that year, she won the Category 4 race at the New York State Criterium Championships.
In 2021, she joined Liv Racing, which made her the first-ever African-American woman to partake in a professional road cycling team.
Track Cycling Stars
8. Kristina Vogel
Kristina Vogel has had an impressive career despite facing numerous challenges. Some of her notable highlights include wins at the UCI World Junior Track Championship, UEC European Track Championships, and National Track Championships. She also has three Olympic medals; two gold and one bronze.
Tragedy struck in 2018 when she suffered a severe spinal injury during a training accident. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, Vogel continues to inspire others with her unwavering determination and spirit.
9. Dame Laura Kenny
Laura Kenny is a British track cyclist who has consistently proven her prowess on the velodrome. Born in 1992, Kenny first rose to prominence at the 2012 London Olympics, where she secured two gold medals in the team pursuit and omnium events.
At the 2016 Olympics, she defended her titles in both events and won the madison at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, making her the most successful British female Olympian ever. Throughout her career, Kenny has also earned numerous gold medals in the European Championships and World Championships. Check out our guide on famous track cyclists.
Mountain Biking Legends
10. Juli Furtado
Juliana “Juli” Furtado is a true pioneer in the world of mountain biking. In the early 90s, Furtado dominated the sport, winning multiple championships and breaking down barriers for women in this male-dominated field. She had an incredible career in both cross-country and downhill racing and went on to launch Juliana Bicycles, offering mountain bikes designed for female riders.
In 1994, she won 17 of the 18 events she competed in. She also has several UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and NOBRA wins. Furtado was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame in 1993 and the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame more than two decades later in 2005.
11. Alison Sydor
Alison Sydor is another legend in the world of mountain biking, earning numerous accolades and championships throughout her impressive career. She won the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in the cross-country race in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and again in 2002 in the team relay. She also has one Olympic gold medal and four gold World Cup medals.
Her accolades have put her in several prestigious institutions:
- The Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame
- The Canadian Cycling Hall Of Fame
- The Canadian Sports Hall Of Fame
- British Columbia’s Sports Hall Of Fame
12. Katie Compton
Katie Compton is an American cyclocross racer who has dominated the scene for more than a decade. A 15-time national champion, she has been a consistent force in international competitions as well.
She also won the 2007 Cyclo-cross World Championships. The feat made her the first-ever American woman to reach the podium.
13. Sanne Cant
Sanne Cant, a Belgian cyclist, has been a strong presence in women’s cyclocross since her breakthrough in the late 2000s. With a relentless racing style and technical prowess, she has forged a successful career and inspired other female cyclists.
Some of Cant’s standout accomplishments include:
- Three consecutive UCI Cyclocross World Championship wins (2017-2019)
- 13-time Belgian National Cyclocross Champion
This article was researched with the help of OpenAI and fact-checked and edited by our human editor.