Many people around the world tend to believe that cycling is an individual sport and that the best riders in history have simply been better than their rivals without the help of anyone else, this view could not be more incorrect.
Cycling is in fact a sport that is heavily team-based with intricate tactics that need to be figured out and employed in perfect fashion in order for a team to take the win.
In today’s piece, I will be taking you on a walk-through time by looking at the 10 best cycling teams of all time.
This may well be the hardest of these lists to figure out as it is difficult to compare teams that existed in different eras, with many on this list no longer existing.
We start this list right here in the US and the greatest cycling team to have ever (legally) come out of the country.
In the 1980s cycling was really in its pomp and the US wanted to get as much representation in races such as the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia as they could, step forward the 7-Eleven team.
Sponsored by convenience store giants 7-Eleven this relatively small team crossed the Atlantic with big dreams and a tiny budget.
What followed was one of the best stories in the history of the sport, under the stewardship of team manager Jim Oschowitz for the entire 16 years of their existence (later as Motorola).
At the Giro in 1988 came the team’s finest hour, racing against some of the biggest stars in the peloton relative unknown Andrew Hampsten alongside his band of brothers from 7-Eleven took the overall victory and the king of the mountains classification in what is still regarded as one of the biggest upsets in cycling history.
The team enjoyed plenty more minor successes up until 1996 when they were forced to disband after bringing a young rider named Lance Armstrong to Europe.
The biggest team in the history of Spanish cycling, they also happen to be the longest-running program in the modern peloton having been a constant in the bunch since 1980.
In this long period, the Spanish outfit has racked up a plethora of Grand Tour wins and has since ventured into the Women’s side of the sport where they won the inaugural Tour de France Femmes thanks to the legendary exploits of Annemiek van Vleuten.
In the early years of the team’s existence, they relied heavily on the talent of their local heroes Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain who would both deliver the yellow jersey to the team as well as some other Grand Tour titles.
The team has always been viewed as a stage racing setup and hasn’t enjoyed much success in one-day races over the years, though van Vleuten also changed this by winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2021.
If you want to learn about the current crop of Movistar riders, the team has a yearly documentary-style series that airs on Netflix.
Possibly one of the most controversial teams in the history of the sport, having been embroiled in a series of doping scandals involving riders such as Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, Astana remains a constant in the peloton and has enjoyed lots of success down the years.
The team is named after the capital city of Kazakhstan and is heavily involved with the government of the small European nation. This partnership has given the team plenty of sponsorship money that has been invested into securing some of the best riders in the world.
Following the departures of both Alexander Vinokourov and Johan Bruyneel as respective team managers, the team enjoyed a period of relative calm and thanks to the exploits of Vincenzo Nibali once again had the yellow jersey in their hands.
Since then though, the team’s success has slumped somewhat and Vinokourov has returned for another spell as manager.
One of the oldest names in the sport, that still carries weight today even though the team has been defunct since the mid-1980s.
Mercier was a factory team that rode on Mercier bikes in order to essentially sell models to the public, this is still common practice in the sport today as Trek (amongst other brands) has factory teams on their bikes.
The Mercier team existed between 1935 and 1984 in various different guises, with them long being one of the most successful teams in the peloton. The team had many talented riders race for them over their long existence such as Louison Bobet, Raymond Poulidor, and Joop Zoetemelk.
Of these legends, it was the latter that enjoyed the most success for Mercier, with Zoetemelk winning the Vuelta a España alongside three editions of Paris – Nice.
Poulidor is Mercier’s most famous man though, with the Frenchman being adored by his home fans thanks to his eternal second-place finishes at the Tour de France having raced against Eddy Merckx.
For the next team on our list, we have to go back even further in time, to the late 1890s and the formation of the Italian-based team Bianchi.
Another factory team designed to promote the now famous Bianchi manufacturers; this team raced on the now iconic blue frame bikes for many years before being disbanded for the last time in 2003.
The team existed in many different forms over the decades, having officially raced five times under the Bianchi banner.
Its longest period in the peloton came in the early 1900s though, with the team being built around the legendary Fausto Coppi. The local hero of Italy won many races riding for Bianchi including both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia on multiple occasions.
Following the era of Coppi, Bianchi enjoyed yet more triumph thanks to Felice Gimondi in the 1970s and later with Jan Ullrich when he attempted to best Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France.
Since folding in 2003, Bianchi has moved into supplying other teams with their bikes which are currently used by UCI WorldTour team Bike Exchange – Jayco.
Cycling is a sport steeped in history and we have yet another team from the earliest days of the sport in 5th place today.
The Italian team Legnano raced between 1906 and 1966 with it being the home of some of the greatest Italian riders that the sport has ever seen.
In its earliest years, Legnano was the home of Alfredo Binda who is widely viewed as the first superstar of Italian cycling who dominated the editions of the Giro d’Italia that he raced in (he won the race five times for the team).
After Binda retired, the success of the team did not dry up in the slightest as more stars emerged from Italy.
Legnano became the team of Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi at points during their respective careers and both added more triumph at the Giro to the teams record books.
In total Legnano won the Giro 11 times over the years alongside countless stages at the race.
It’s back to France for the next team of this piece, with perhaps the most famous French car (and bike manufacturer in the past) of all time, Peugeot.
From an official standpoint, the team is ranked as the most successful of all time having won the Tour de France on ten occasions, including four times in a row between 1905 and 1908.
The team raced for many years before disbanding in 1986 and is perhaps best known for their now iconic black and white jerseys that are endlessly reproduced and replicated in modern times.
Peugeot was at one point the home of the great Eddy Merckx, with the cannibal racing for them for two seasons where he delivered one-day success at Milan – San Remo.
The names of legendary riders that raced for Peugeot is nearly endless, with men such as Tom Simpson, Bernard Thévenet, Lucien Petit-Breton, and Robert Millar all being with the team at some point.
From one iconic jersey to another, the Mapei team was renowned for their wild jersey design that featured cubic patterns that are still worn by many today. It is often viewed as the most famous jersey of all time.
The team itself was founded in 1993 and was later disbanded in 2002 meaning that they are actually one of the shortest existing teams in this list.
The success that the team experienced during this short time puts them right up there with the best though, Mapei were the number one team in the world for all but two of their seasons in the peloton for reference.
The team were good stage racers, having won a few Grand Tours over the years but were most famous for their one-day prowess. Mapei won Paris – Roubaix on five occasions and was the home of the legendary Johan Museeuw during his best years as a professional.
One-time team manager Patrick Lefevere would later go on to manage another great team.
2. INEOS Grenadiers
In the early 2000s success was somewhat limited for British riders at the Tour de France and other big races, with them often relying on stage wins and the occasional stint in the yellow jersey to shout about.
All this changed when Dave Brailsford was tasked with building a cycling dynasty that could bring the yellow jersey to Britain.
It all started in 2010 with the initial goal of winning the world championships with sprinter Mark Cavendish, which was achieved as quickly as 2011.
Focus then turned to the biggest title of them all and with Bradley Wiggins at the helm the team would duly achieve the feat in 2012 and started an era of British domination at the race.
Chris Froome would be the next leader of the team and indeed the greatest they ever had, with him winning the Tour de France on four occasions as well as both the Giro and Vuelta.
Following Froome would be hard, but Welshman Geraint Thomas continued the British dominance by taking the yellow jersey in 2018.
The team is now known as the INEOS Grenadiers and is having to rebuild somewhat after failing to win the Tour de France since Egan Bernal took the title in 2019.
1. Quickstep – Alpha Vinyl
The greatest cycling team to have ever done it is the great Quickstep – Alpha Vinyl. The Belgian team led by often controversial team manager Patrick Lefevere has established itself as the undisputed king of the classics have been home to legends such as Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, and Philippe Gilbert over the years.
Since being founded in 2003, the team has won over 800 races making it already one of the most successful squads ever in just under 20 years of racing.
The team is also renowned for being the place to go if you are a sprinter, with it having the most refined sprinting setup of any team in the world. Mark Cavendish is perhaps the team’s most famous former rider, with him having two spells with the ‘Wolfpack’ during his storied career.
The team is starting to enjoy success outside of one-day races nowadays with young Belgian talent Remco Evenepoel delivering the team’s first Grand Tour win at this season’s Vuelta a España.
Quickstep – Alpha Vinyl as they are currently known has also been home to the past three world champions (Evenepoel in 2022 and Julian Alaphilippe in 2020/21).