Our needs as humans are simple, really. Beyond the basic water/food/shelter requirements, we all just want to be universally loved and respected while being the best at what we do—is that too much to ask? Apparently it is, judging by the number of us that punch the clock everyday for forty years, and the relative few who experience the ephemeral burn of stardom followed by the eternal warmth of the love of their fans. This week’s Top 5 takes a look at five cyclists who have it all, and live the lives many only dream about, which is why we would love to take a ride in their bib shorts, so to speak.
Mario Cipollini—57 Grand Tour stage wins, 3-Time Maglia Rosso winner, 2002 World Champ. Super Mario, the flamboyant and beloved Italian superstar sprinter, has already lost more sleep than most of us get in our entire lives. The Lion King often followed up a session of nocturnal revelry with a stage win at the Giro d’Italia, of which he collected a record forty-two. Cipo’s self-assured style and graphic skinsuits created some detractors, and his practice of abandoning the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana after the initial flat stages resulted in the exclusion of his teams from several Grand Tours. It’s doubtful that Mario cared too much about this, judging from a circa 2003 advertisement picturing Mario lounging at the beach, surrounded by women, with the tagline reading something like, “The Lion King. July 12th, 2003.” Cipollini’s off-the-bike reputation as a playboy is legendary, enhanced by such quotes from the man himself that “If I wasn’t a pro cyclist I’d be a porn star.” and his penchant for posing nude in advertisements for his sponsors. A career filled with victories, a nightlife spent with the rich and the beautiful, and the adoration of a populace known for their passionate appreciation of life would make it easy to pedal a few kilometers in Mario’s shoes.
Fabian Cancellara—6 Monument victories, including 3 Paris-Roubaix wins, 4 Time Trial World Championships, 12 Grand Tour Stage Wins, 1 Olympic Gold Medal in Time Trial. Spartacus’s palmeres were earned with some of the gutsiest race wins to have ever graced the pavement. Cancellara’s instincts are matched only by his freakish ability to hold a 100% effort for 50K, as shown at the 2010 Paris-Roubaix, in which he tired of the farce, and simply turned up the power to a level unattainable by anyone else in the race.
That effort not only earned Cancellara the top step on the podium, but also allegations of “mechanical doping.” According to Davide Cassani—the same Italian cycling commentator who was involved in David Rassmusen’s expulsion from the 2007 Tour—The Spartan’s inhuman ability came from an electric motor, discreetly placed in his bike’s seat tube, and activated by a switch hidden on the shifter… That, dear readers, is reason enough to want to be Fabian Cancellara; standard blood doping isn’t enough, the only way to be that strong is with an engine! Admired and respected by cycling fans world-wide, fluent in four languages, and accused of racing with a motorized bicycle, being Fabian Cancellara would be a kick.
Steve Peat—17 UCI World Cup DH wins, 3 UCI World Cup DH Overall Titles, 2009 DH World Champion. Steve Peat is the true People’s Champion, always ready to crack a cold Stella at the end of a race, and perpetually happy and appreciative to be riding his bike for a living. Surrounded by friends and fans wherever he goes at eighteen years into his pro career, Peaty is still a threat to win any race he enters. After coming tantalizingly close to several World Championship wins, Peat finally won the Rainbow Stripes in 2009, possibly making his legion of fans—including those in the pro ranks—even happier than he was. Steve is probably the most popular and beloved mountain biker of all time, holds an honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University, and never has to pay for beer wherever he goes. Why wouldn’t you want to be Steve Peat?
Keep up with Steve’s current exploits on This Is Peaty.
Cedric Gracia—1 UCI World Cup Four Cross win, 10 UCI World Cup Four Cross podiums, 6 UCI World Cup DH podiums, 2 Crankworx Air DH wins, 2003 Red Bull Rampage 1st place. Some people go to the party, some people enliven the party, and some people are the party. If you have ever spent time with CG, or heard tales from those that have, then you know exactly which of the above classifications he belongs in. The fun-loving Frenchman who always seems to be having the time of his life began riding professionally in 2001, and soon thereafter established himself as one of the most versatile and talented mountain bikers in the world. Not only did Cedric finish the 2002 UCI World Cup Season ranked #2 in both downhill and four-cross, but in 2003 Gracia took first place in the Red Bull Rampage over the world’s best freeriders, along with a World Cup 4X win and a couple NORBA National DH wins. Gracia, like Cipollini, was reputed to be a bit of a libertine, and the trail of empty cocktail glasses and swooning women left in his wake did nothing to dissuade this. Currently married and living in the tax-averse and business-friendly enclave of Andorra, Gracia has recovered from a broken hip incurred in a 2012 crash and is back in ripping form once again, although he has recently retired from downhill racing to concentrate on “movie parts with big jumps,” and “crushing everybody in Enduro,” according to the man himself. As another universally admired and respected personality in the MTB world, CG is always met with a smile and an open beverage, along with perhaps a touch of envy, wherever he goes.
Eddy Merckx—The Cannibal won just about everything at least once, including 3 World Championships, 5 Tours de France, 5 Giros d’Italia, and 1 Vuelta a Espana. Eddy Merckx, also known as the Greatest of All Time, was so dominant that only surfer Kelly Slater—with 11 ASP World Championships and 53 WCT wins—can even come close to touching his competitive legacy. At his peak, Merckx won just about half of all the races he entered, and in 1969 captured the Yellow, Green and Polka Dot jerseys of the Tour de France, an unprecedented and unrepeatable achievement. Aside from standard competitive rivalries and jealousies, Merckx was widely liked and respected, and avoided any truly damaging controversy in both his personal and professional life. Merckx has even been graced to witness the growth of two children, one of whom, Axel, followed in his fathers footsteps and enjoyed a successful career as a pro road cyclist. To this day, Eddy is treated as royalty wherever he goes, and can always look back on a life that only he could imagine living.