As you will no doubt be aware of by now, there are many different kinds of riders that make up the cycling peloton, ranging from climbers to sprinters and puncheurs to time trialists. Today we will be focusing on the last of those specialties, with a view into the best TT riders of all time.
TT stars focus on mastery against the clock, with them being able to produce massive levels of wattage for a sustained period of time in order to cross the line with the fastest time. Grand Tours can be won and lost during the ‘race of truth’, so expect to see some familiar faces in this piece.
Here are the 10 best TT riders of all time.
10. Miguel Indurain
One of the greatest TT specialists that were also a Grand Tour winner, Spaniard Miguel Indurain may be more famous for his ability against the clock than he is for his climbing prowess.
Indurain had the nickname ‘Big Mig’ for his larger build that gave him the ability to generate incredible power when required, this made him an excellent TT specialist.
Never was Indurains’ mastery against the clock more apparent than in the 1992 Tour de France, the Spaniard started 6 minutes down on one of his main GC rivals Laurent Fignon and put him to the sword.
Indurain caught and passed Fignon with relative ease and would go on to win the stage by over 3 minutes.
9. Bernard Hinault
Another great legend of the sport in GC terms, Frenchman Bernard Hinault won the Tour de France a record equalling 5 times during his storied career.
In order to have this many yellow jerseys hanging in your closet, you need to have a very high level of time-trialing ability, and Hinault did.
Perhaps the most iconic TT that Hinault won came in the 1986 edition of the Tour de France, the Frenchman was battling teammate Greg LeMond for the overall victory and took a brilliant stage victory against the clock ahead of his rival in 2nd.
It was at this moment though that LeMond effectively won the race, with Hinault stating that he would no longer threaten the American after his performance in the TT.
8. Bradley Wiggins
The first British rider to ever win the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins did so with the help of his fantastic time-trialing prowess.
It would be fair to say that Wiggins’ ability against the clock was much better than his climbing talent, with him needing to be chaperoned up many of the high mountains by teammate Chris Froome.
Alongside his triumph at the Tour de France, Wiggins also shone in induvial time trials throughout his career. The Brit was both an Olympic and World Champion in the discipline (the gold medal ride at the 2012 Olympics being arguably the crowning glory of his fabulous 2012 season).
Since retiring, Wiggins has lent his expertise to Eurosport’s coverage of the three Grand Tours, with him often jumping onto the back of a motorcycle to get stuck into the peloton during stages of the race.
7. Rohan Dennis
The first rider in our list who can be called an out-and-out TT specialist, Australian rider Rohan Dennis has never won or even competed for a title at a Grand Tour.
Dennis instead has worked as an excellent domestique on both the flat and in the mountains for a number of leaders, including Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.
Outside of his role as a luxury teammate, Dennis committed his career to become the best TT rider in the world and for some time he was just that. The Aussie became the world champion in the discipline for the first time in 2018 and would back that up by defending the rainbow bands a year later.
Despite never managing to claim the Olympic gold medal in the TT, Dennis has also won a series of Grand Tour stages against the clock and will surely be targeting more success in the colors of the all-conquering Jumbo – Visma team next season.
6. Chris Boardman
One of the real trailblazers of British cycling, Chris Boardman was the first British star at the Tour de France since Tom Simpson decades before him.
Boardman was an aerodynamic genius, and alongside his expert team behind the scenes created one of the best bikes of all time for his assault on the individual pursuit at the 1992 Olympic Games. Boardman also held the UCI Hour Record 3 times in his career.
Off the track, Boardman was also the best TT rider in the world during his prime and would become the first-ever UCI World Champion in the discipline in 1994. Alongside this, he specialized in prologue time trials that sometimes take place before the first road stage of a Grand Tour.
Boardman went on to work in the bike manufacturing industry, with his company Boardman bikes being one of the most popular brands in the UK. He is now working in politics as the commissioner for walking and cycling in England.
5. Jacques Anquetil
We go back to the land of the GC riders for the 5th placed rider on our list, the great Jacques Anquetil.
The French hero was another of the pre-2000 crop of stars that was as equally good against the clock as he was in the mountains, Anquetil even had the nickname of ‘Monsieur Chrono’ for a time during his career.
For a time there was nobody that could beat Anquetil when it came to time trial stages ar Grand Tours, he would simply dominate the discipline in the early 1960s on his way to 5 Tour de France titles.
Anquetil raced before there was a designated world championship in the discipline, so it really begs the question of how many rainbow jerseys he could have won if the UCI had debuted the competition a few decades earlier than they actually did?
4. Filippo Ganna
Currently the undisputed king of the time trial discipline, Italian rider Filippo Ganna has for some years now been at the top of the tree when it comes to racing against the clock.
Ganna first broke onto the scene in 2015, racing as an under-23 for the team then called Lampre – Merida, the young Ganna took the win at the Chrono Champenois International event and started to attract attention from bigger teams.
Eventually, Ganna found himself racing for the cycling behemoth that is INEOS Grenadiers and became the world champion in the TT in the 2020 season (and again in 2021).
Despite losing out on a third straight year in the rainbow jersey this season, the Italian has another goal in mind for the end of the year. He would totally smash the UCI Hour Record, setting a new target that I doubt will be beaten for a long time.
3. Eddy Merckx
He had to be somewhere on the list, and today it is only 3rd place for the great Eddy Merckx because nobody wants to see the same guy at the top of every list do they?
The palmares of the Belgian is simply unmatched by anyone, with him winning in every way imaginable throughout his career. For this reason, he cannot be declared the best TT rider of all time as he did not truly specialise in the discipline at any point in his career.
This being said, Merckx didn’t ever have the chance to compete for the rainbow jersey in the discipline, as like some others in this list he did not race in a period where the competition was held.
2. Tony Martin
One of the ultimate TT specialists of all time, Tony Martin raced in a time filled with specialists in the discipline. Whilst his powers in terms of the TT have dwindled in recent seasons, he remains one of the strongest to have ever competed.
The mighty German has 4 world championship titles to his name in the discipline, including a spectacular ‘3 in a row’ that came between 2011 and 2013. Alongside this, Martin is a 10-time German national champion in the time trial, a truly remarkable achievement by any riders’ standards.
Prior to his retirement at the end of the 2021 season, Martin raced primarily as a domestique and looked after both GC leaders and sprinters on flat stages, with him being able to ride on the front for long periods of time.
1. Fabian Cancellara
There was only ever one man who could top this list in my opinion, a rider I grew up watching and admiring, the great Fabian Cancellara.
The Swiss legend was multi-talented in the sense that he was equally good in the spring classics as he was in the time trial. He toom multiple wins in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Paris – Roubaix, and Milano – San Remo.
In terms of his TT skills, Cancellara was a 4-time world champion in the discipline and simply ruled the race of truth for a period. Alongside this, he would win 2 Olympic Gold medals and a plethora of Grand Tour stages.
The breadth of Cancellara’s achievements is what makes him stand out for me, he was simply strength personified.