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Econometricians calculate ‘Universal Tour Ranking’

Econometricians of the Faculty of Economics claim that Lance Armstrong would become the best Tour de France cyclist ever if he were to win the Tour one more time. The Groningen econometricians have designed and calculated a ‘Universal Tour Ranking’ that has revealed this conclusion. Armstrong shares second place with Bernard Hinault in this ranking, behind the Belgian Eddy Merckx.

The new Tour Ranking includes all 1228 cyclists who have won prizes since the first Tour in 1903. A total of 4626 riders have competed in the race.



Despite having won the Tour seven times, Armstrong is surpassed in the ranking by Merckx, holder of five Tour titles. In his prime, the Belgian was known as ‘the cannibal’, who collected yellow jerseys by the dozen but was also keen on the occasional green or red-dotted one. It is this much wider range of talents that has now earned Merkx the top position in the Universal Tour Ranking.

Computer program

The winners from the present and the past were compared in a specially designed computer program which included corrections to the changing circumstances under which the performances were achieved. For example, the 1903 Tour only consisted of six stages as opposed to the current 21, and the entire route was 2428 kilometres long, whereas it now totals 3656 kilometres. The number of contestants varied between 60 and 207, and the numbers and types of jerseys awarded have also changed over time. In addition, the computer has also taken into account differences in time (adjusted) between the cyclists in the final yellow-jersey rankings.

Top ten

The Universal Tour Ranking top ten is as follows: 1. Eddy Merckx, 2. Bernard Hinault, 3. Lance Armstrong, 4. Miguel Indurain, 5. Jacques Anquetil, 6. Joop Zoetemelk, 7. Lucien van Impe, 8. Louison Bobet, 9. Nicolas Frantz, 10. Gino Bartali.

Note for the press

Further information: Prof. Gerard Sierksma, Department of Econometrics, tel. (050)363 3805 or 06 10020296;
Last modified:09 July 2014 12.12 p.m.

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