10 Famous Olympic Cyclists: A Quick Look At The Legends

Famous olympic cyclists

The jaw-dropping performances and achievements of famous Olympic cyclists will be forever remembered in the history of the sport; let’s learn about these legends.

The world of Olympic cycling has seen numerous outstanding athletes over the years, with many etching their names into the history books. From their powerful sprints to their endurance and sheer determination, these cyclists have captured the attention of millions worldwide and inspired generations to pursue the sport.

Great Britain has produced some of the best cyclists in recent memory, such as Jason Kenny. Other notable British cyclists include Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Kenny, and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Olympic cycling success is not limited to Great Britain alone; athletes like Belgium’s Eddy Merckx and Colombia’s Mariana Pajón have made their mark in the world of cycling as well. As the Olympic Games continue to bring new talent and cycling heroes into the limelight, fans of the sport are sure to witness even more extraordinary feats in the years to come. You can also check out our guide on famous Scottish cyclists.

Legendary Olympic Cyclists

Cycling has seen many great athletes over the years, but there are a few who stand out for their performances at the Olympic Games.

1. Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx, a Belgian cyclist, is considered one of the best cyclists of all time. Born in 1945, he participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics, representing Belgium. Although his Olympic career is notably brief, his overall achievements in the world of cycling are monumental.

Merckx is well known for his incredible accomplishments in various cycling disciplines, including road, track, cyclo-cross, and mountain bike racing. His palmares include winning numerous Grand Tours, over 500 professional races, and earning a total of 11 Grand Tour victories.

2. Chris Hoy

Famous olympic cyclists
Hoy won gold at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games and has several UCI Track World Championship wins

Sir Chris Hoy, a British track cyclist, is another legendary figure in the world of Olympic cycling. Over four Olympic Games (2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012), Hoy has accumulated a total of seven gold medals and one silver, making him one of the most successful British Olympians.

Beyond the Olympics, Hoy won gold at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games and has several UCI Track World Championship wins. 

3. Sir Jason Kenny

Jason Kenny is the most decorated British athlete of all time. Across four Olympic games, he took home nine medals; seven gold and two silver. Since retiring, Kenny still found a way to be involved in the sport through coaching up-and-comers. 

Other notable wins include coming first in the team sprint at the UCI Track World Cup five times. He also came first in the 2010 UEC European Track Championships keirin as well as winning the kilo and team sprint races at the 2015 National Track Championships.

4. Dame Laura Kenny

Dame Laura Kenny
Laura has made her mark on the cycling world with impressive versatility

Another British cyclist, Laura Kenny, reigns as one of the top female cyclists of all time, with six Olympic medals to her name, five of which are gold. Having married Jason Kenny in 2016, the couple is unstoppable.

Laura has made her mark on the cycling world with impressive versatility, competing in different cycling disciplines like track and road cycling. Her illustrious career includes the following Olympic achievements:

  • 2012: Gold in the team pursuit and omnium
  • 2016: Gold in the team pursuit and omnium
  • 2020: Silver in the madison 

5. Kristin Armstrong

Kristin Armstong is a jack-of-all-trades; before she was known as a cycling legend, she was a junior swimming Olympian and runner, which led to her becoming a triathlete.  

After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis when she was only 27 years old, Armstrong pivoted to focus solely on cycling. 

After finishing in eighth place at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the women’s road race, she took home the gold in the women’s road time trial in the 2008 Summer Games.

Her second Olympic win came in 2012 when she conquered the individual time trial. In 2016, she became the first cyclist to take home the gold three times in one discipline when she won the women’s individual time trial. The feat made her the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal in cycling at the age of 43. 

6. Leontien Van Moorsel

Dutch cyclist Leontien van Moorsel was a powerhouse in the ‘90s and early 2000s. With four Olympic gold medals under her belt, she is one of the most successful Dutch athletes. 

In the 2002 Summer Games in Sydney, she won the road race, time trial, and individual pursuit. Despite having an accident earlier in the games, she won the time trial again in the 2004 Summer Olympics. 

Other notable wins include:

  • First overall in the Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin in 1991
  • Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale wins in 1992 & 1993
  • Overall wins at the Ster van Zeeland in 1998, 1999 & 2000

7. Sir Bradly Wiggins 

Prior to Jason Kenny winning his ninth Olympic medal, Sir Bradly Wiggins was the most decorated British athlete. His Olympic achievements are as follows:

  • 2000: Bronze in the team pursuit 
  • 2004: First in the individual pursuit, second in the team pursuit, third in the madison
  • 2008: First in the individual pursuit and team pursuit 
  • 2012: First in the road time trial 
  • 2016: Frist in the team pursuit 

Wiggins also won the 2012 Tour de France, the Tour of Britain in 2013, and the Tour of California in 2014. 

8. Mariana Pajón

Having won her first national title when she was a child, there was no doubt that Mariana Pajón would grow up to have Olympic success. She won the women’s BMX race in the 2012 Summer Olympics and again in 2016. The achievement made her the first athlete from Colombia to win gold twice. She came second in the BMX race at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. 

9. Bao Shanju

Bao Shanju made a groundbreaking start to her career. Shanju and Zhong Tianshi set a world record in the women’s team sprint at the 2020 Summer Olympics when they finished in 31.804 seconds and won the gold. She also came second in the women’s team sprint in the 2022 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. 

10. Zhong Tianshi

Zhong Tianshi
First in the sprint at the 2017 National Track Championships

Zhong Tianshi isn’t new to breaking records. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, she set a new record, at the time, in the team sprint with Gong Jinjie, having clocked 31.98 seconds. Other career highlights include winning the team sprint with Jingie in the 2014 Asian Games and coming first in the sprint at the 2017 National Track Championships.

Types Of Cycling Events

The Olympics is a place for all kinds of cyclists to showcase their skills. Let’s explore the Olympic cycling events:

Road Racing

Road racing events take place on paved roads, with riders competing against each other to cover a specific distance as quickly as possible. Road races are long-distance events, typically around 240km, where cyclists navigate through both flat and hilly terrains. During the race, riders have to use their strength, endurance, and strategy to conquer challenging courses with varying conditions.

Track Cycling

Track cycling involves races on a velodrome, an oval-shaped, banked track specifically designed for cycling events. There are six different track events for both men and women, including team pursuit, omnium, keirin, madison, sprint, and team sprint. These events require a mix of speed, skill, and endurance from the riders. 

Some of the races, like team sprints, involve three riders from two teams starting at opposite sides of the track and working together to achieve the fastest time.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking, introduced in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, focuses on off-road cycling through rugged terrains and steep slopes. Competitors need to have excellent bike handling skills, agility, and strength to overcome obstacles like rocks, roots, and mud. Olympic mountain bike races usually consist of multiple laps of a challenging circuit, with riders aiming to complete the course in the shortest time possible.


BMX racing made its Olympic debut in 2008. This discipline involves a thrilling short course filled with jumps, tight turns, and obstacles, showcasing their power, balance, and control. 

The freestyle BMX event, introduced in 2021, demonstrates the athletes’ creativity and skill through aerial tricks executed on ramps and rails. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our round-up of famous Belgian cyclists.

This article was researched with the help of OpenAI and fact-checked and edited by our human editor.