Power isn't necessarily derived from one element. It's often a combination of wealth, influence, control and inspiration. Here at Cyclingnews, we have compiled our list of the 50 most powerful people in the sport, and it incorporates individuals from various communities: from riders to managers, sponsors, governors and advocates for change and progress, it's an inclusive run-down on who shapes pro cycling.
While our top 50 is comprehensively pulled together from different bodies and organisations, we realise that professional cycling has a long way to go if it wants to reach parity in terms of gender and race. Our list, subjective as it is, represents where we feel cycling currently stands, rather than where it should be. We hope that our list kicks off a wider debate than just who should or shouldn't be top, and opens up discussions on where cycling can improve.
50. Giovanni Lombardi (rider agent)
Giovanni Lombardi used to lead out Mario Cipollini in sprints but his influence and power run much deeper in retirement, with the Italian agent able to name Peter Sagan as one of his current clients. Not only that but he has influence when it comes to racing in South America.
49. Colin Strickland (gravel rider)
The explosion of gravel racing and riding in recent times has thrust a new wave of athlete onto the scene. At the head of the pack is Strickland, who is not only one of the dominant riders, but also a shrewd operator when it comes to sponsorship and marketing himself. The gravel racer breaks away from the typical pro rider, who signs his or her contract with a team and effectively becomes an employee. Instead, the gravel racer is a self-employed and much-empowered athlete who has far greater responsibility.
48. Tim Kerrison (head coach, Team Ineos)
The Australian is perhaps the key figure behind Team Ineos' Tour de France success, having personally coached Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas on their way to their yellow jerseys. His training methods have not only brought huge success to the British team but have changed the way the Tour is ridden.
47. Eddy Merckx (former rider)
Merckx's influence has waned over the years with age, and the demise of his relationship with the Middle East races is another factor. Despite these factors he remains a byword for greatness in the sport of cycling. No list comparing the figureheads within cycling can be compiled without his name.
46. Philippa York (journalist & advocate)
Philippa York first made a name for herself as Robert Millar – one of the most successful riders on the planet in the 1980s – but her influence these days goes much further. As a spokesperson for diversity, inclusion and the LGBTQi community, she transcends the sport, and when it comes to analytically writing about the sport, her work often appears in the Guardian, Rouleur and, of course, Cyclingnews.
45. Axel Merckx (manager, Hagens Berman Axeon)
It was always unfair to compare Axel Merckx's racing career with that of his father, but the son has gone on to launch and maintain one of the, if not the, most distinguished development teams in the world. As a spotter of talent, Merckx junior is second to none, and the graduates of the Hagens Berman Axeon family include several WorldTour elite riders. Merckx has effectively created the blueprint for development teams.
44. Wout van Aert (rider, Jumbo-Visma)
Six months on the sidelines at the end of 2019 may have taken some of the shine off Van Aert’s star, but back in July the Belgian was on his way to becoming a leading light in the peloton. Since then, Remco Evenepoel and Mathieu van der Poel have earned the right to have higher places on this list, but Van Aert remains both an extraordinary talent and a Classics star in the making.
43. Mike Sinyard (CEO, Specialized)
There might be larger bike brands on the market, but Specialized remain a market leader in a number of areas, and their longevity stems from their founder and CEO, Mike Sinyard. The American tour de force supplies elite teams Bora-Hansgrohe, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Boels Dolmans, but they're pioneers in development, too.
42. Jonathan Vaughters (manager, EF Pro Cycling)
Jonathan Vaughters' control and voice may not be at the same levels they were at a decade ago, but the American remains an important player in the sport. EF Pro Cycling is the longest-standing American team in the peloton, and Vaughters' business acumen and presence on social media elevates him into our top 50.
41. Remco Evenepoel (rider, Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Few, if any, junior riders have ever transitioned into the WorldTour with such ease as Evenepoel, who without question is one of the most exciting prospects in the world. Could Belgium finally have their first Tour de France winner since 1976? Who knows? But Evenepoel has established himself as an athlete and even a brand in Belgium, with his own clothing range.
40. Martijn Berkhout (rider agent & manager, SEG)
Berkhout forms part of the larger SEG agency in the Netherlands, and his clients include riders such as Daniel Martin, Niki Terpstra and Bauke Mollema. But it's the SEG Racing team, and their new e-racing element, that sets Berkhout apart from most other agents. Running a development team opens up new avenues and opportunities to produce new talent, while the e-racing element will one day end up being more than just a fad.
39. John Burke (president, Trek)
John Burke has been president of bike manufacturer Trek since 1997, and as his biography states, he "has worn a lot of hats". After the Armstrong era, Burke moved the company on, and they now provide WorldTour level sponsorship for both a men's and women's team. The brand innovates on the tech side, while they also have an advocacy arm that works with several campaigns.
38. Andrew McQuaid (rider agent)
The director of Trinity Sports Management has built a small empire as a rider agent, with clients that include Geraint Thomas, Rohan Dennis and Nicolas Roche. McQuaid – son of former UCI president Pat McQuaid – also managed Team Wiggins before it folded, but remains as the manager of Tom Pidcock. There's an events side to the Trinity business, too, but McQuaid's strength comes from the fact that he works with so many teams.
37. Veronica Ivy (advocate for transgender inclusion in sport)
A two-time masters world champion, Dr. Veronica Ivy, previously known as Rachel McKinnon, is a transgender athlete and an advocate for transgender inclusion and participation in sport as a human right. An ethics specialist and professor of philosophy, Dr. Ivy has provided her perspective on transgender women competing in sports to an international audience, and featured in the Washington Post and the New York Times, and on CBC Sports and Sky News.
36. Witold Banka (president, WADA)
The former Polish athlete recently replaced Craig Reedie as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Within cycling, anti-doping is in flux, with testing being transferred from the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation to the International Testing Agency. WADA may not have a direct hold over cycling, but it sets the rules for the sport to follow, and therefore Banka exerts influence on its credibility.
35. Wouter Vandenhaute (Owner, Flanders Classics)
Vandenhaute heads up one of the most business-savvy race organisations, which has been running the Tour of Flanders and other spring Classics since 2010, selling out VIP tents at eye-watering prices. He may have handed over the day-to-day running of the organisation to new CEO Thomas Van den Spiegel, but he still calls the shots, and his influence in Belgian sport as a whole recently surged when he became president of Anderlecht football club.
34. Chloé Dygert (rider, Twenty20 Pro Cycling)
The world has big expectations for Dygert as the future of women's cycling, and for good reason: she is the reigning time trial world champion and a five-time world champion on the track – all at the age of just 23. She earned the silver medal in the Team Pursuit at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and has a stated goal of competing in the next six Olympic Games.
33. Marc Madiot (manager, Groupama-FDJ & president, LNC)
The charismatic former Paris-Roubaix champion is the boss of one of the most stable teams in the world, with FDJ having been title sponsor since 1997, and set to stay until at least 2024. As president of the French Cycling League (LNC), he is one of the most influential figures in French cycling, and his voice resonates on a global scale, too.
32. Ayesha McGowan (advocate for better representation for women of colour in the bike industry)
Ayesha McGowan has been advocating for better representation for women of colour in the bike industry for years, using her voice to support and speak up for increased diversity inside the sport's brands, organisations, events, teams and media. McGowan is a professional road cyclist for Liv Racing, and she is inspiring, influencing and leading the next generation of African American women in cycling.
31. Kathryn Bertine (ambassador for equality in cycling)
Kathryn Bertine is an advocate for equality in cycling and a documentary filmmaker of Half The Road, which explores corruption and sexism in sports. As an activist, Bertine started Le Tour Entier, and, together with Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley and Chrissie Wellington, set up a successful petition sent to the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and Christian Prudhomme calling for a women's Tour de France. With 97,307 signatures, La Course by Le Tour de France was born.
30. Eric Min (founder and CEO, Zwift)
Like it or not, e-racing is going to be a thing. It's already a thing, with the coronavirus pandemic fast-tracking its growth. Even before that, the UCI had announced an e-Worlds, to be hosted by Zwift. There are numerous other platforms popping up, but Min heads up what's currently the biggest, and he hasn't been afraid to throw money around to cement Zwift's place as the market leader.
29. Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (owner, Bahrain McLaren)
The member of the Bahraini royal family was the man behind the creation of the Bahrain McLaren team in 2017. The main funding comes from state-run companies, while the McLaren Group is itself owned by Bahrain sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat. At the heart of it all, pulling the strings of one of the biggest WorldTour teams, is Prince Nasser. The Bahrain regime has faced allegations of human rights abuses, with several organisations claiming the regime is responsible for cases of torture, disappearances, and abuse, all of which have been denied by Prince Nasser.
28. Bonnie Tu (Chairperson Giant Group & Liv Cycling Founder)
Bonnie Tu is Giant Group chairperson, Giant, Liv, Momentum, and CADEX brands & Liv Cycling Founder. She is the driving force behind the Liv brand of women-specific cycling gear.
Tu was inspired to take on the Tour of Taiwan in 2007 at the age of 57, and found the quality and availability of women-specific gear was surprisingly lacking. Since then, she's made it her mission to make the Liv brand – run by women for women – welcoming to female riders. Liv sponsors the WorldTour CCC-Liv team, as well as 17 independent ambassadors.
27. Gerry Ryan (owner, Mitchelton-Scott)
Few have shaped the course of Australian cycling like Ryan – a businessman who started investing in the sport in the early 1990s. The GreenEdge project – now known as Mitchelton-Scott – was launched with his backing in 2012, and he has poured millions into it, mostly for the love of it rather than any financial return.
26. Alessandra Cappellotto (manager, CPA Women)
The 1997 road world champion Alessandra Cappellotto is the manager of the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) women's section – an international association that has received recognition for being the riders' representatives within the UCI. In this role, Cappellotto has a seat at the boardroom table to discuss important issues surrounding women's cycling with important stakeholders and UCI president David Lappartient.
25. Richard Plugge (manager, Jumbo-Visma & board member, AIGCP)
When Rabobank left the sport in 2012, the former journalist was tasked with picking up the pieces and, via Belkin, Blanco and LottoNL, he has turned the Dutch outfit into one of the leading teams in the WorldTour. He's also on the board of the teams' association (AIGCP) and, unafraid to call the UCI out, is an influential voice when it comes to how the sport is run.
24. Yozo Shimano (CEO, Shimano)
Shimano is far and away the leading bicycle component company in the world, supplying groupsets to 14 of the 19 WorldTour teams and kitting out a similar percentage of bikes that are sold globally. With annual revenues exceeding $3bn, it is a true behemoth. Yozo Shimano has been the president since 2001, with notable successes including the rise of the Di2 electronic groupset.
23. Mathieu van der Poel (rider, Alpecin-Fenix)
The Dutchman – the son of Adri van der Poel and the grandson of Raymond Poulidor – is already one of the superstars of world cycling, and his career trajectory is still in its infancy. The 25-year-old's talents see him widely described as a 'phenomenon', and they stretch across road, cyclo-cross and mountain bike. All that, combined with his impulsive racing style, will ensure he'll be one of the top draws for sponsors, fans and race organisers over the next decade.
22. Kelsey Erickson (SafeSport and Anti-Doping director, USA Cycling)
Kelsey Erickson is keeping the sport of cycling safe through her role as the SafeSport and Anti-Doping Director at USA Cycling by providing education, services and advice through the programme, which is being adopted and modelled by other national federations. She has also spent a decade working in international anti-doping, and developed education interventions and whistleblowing policies and procedures.
SafeSport on USA Cycling website
21. Annemiek van Vleuten (rider, Mitchelton-Scott)
She is the reigning world champion and the most dominant and versatile rider in the women's peloton today because of her powerful time trial, climbing ability, and audacious and victorious solo attacks, which will go down in cycling's history books. She is as much a leader inside the peloton as she is outside, using her world-class status to shine a light on inequalities and to promote positive change in women's cycling with more live TV, bigger races and better salaries.
20. Bob Stapleton (chairman-at-large, USA Cycling)
The former owner of the HTC-Highroad team may have stepped away from the day-to-day nature of running a team, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a hand in the sport. Now the chairman-at-large at USA Cycling, he has recruited the last two presidents of the organisation, while he also has a seat at the table on the UCI management committee.
19. Julian Alaphilippe (rider, Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet have carried a nation’s hopes for some time, but in the space of one summer, Julian Alaphillipe transformed himself from a rider of class and panache into a genuine contender for Tour de France glory. A nation fell in love, and if Alaphillipe can end France’s long drought and win his home race, he will be immortalised forever.
18. Sylvan Adams (owner, Israel Start-Up Nation)
Adams made his millions in real estate, and was pivotal in bringing the Giro d'Italia to Israel in 2018. His Israel Start-Up Nation WorldTour team has a modest roster at present, but with talk of a move for Team Ineos leader Chris Froome, it's clear that Adams has the intent and desire to build one of the most powerful cycling teams in the world.
17. Marianne Vos (rider, CCC-Liv)
Marianne Vos' professional cycling career spans 14 years and 12 world championship titles across three disciplines: road, cyclo-cross and track. Although she took a two-year hiatus, she has slowly come back to showcase her dominant winning style that has captivated fans and brought women's cycling to a mainstream audience for over a decade. She is a natural leader who guides, inspires and commands respect by setting the highest standards of professionalism, and it's for these reasons that she has been elected as a member of the UCI Athletes' Commission and as the riders' representative on the UCI Road Commission.
16. Jim Ratcliffe (owner, Team Ineos)
The Ineos owner's business interests may have taken a hit in recent times, but Ratcliffe remains a hugely powerful player in cycling and world sport as a whole. He runs the richest team in cycling and can afford to pay for three Grand Tour winners when some teams can't afford even one. There are limits to his reach, but he can effectively control the transfer market with his resources.
15. Giuseppe Acquadro (rider agent)
Few, if any, of the rider agents in cycling wield as much power as Acquadro. The Italian has a client list that includes Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), and in fact almost every high-profile cyclist in the peloton. His relationship with Movistar may have soured in recent years, but cycling's true super-agent could fill several Grand Tour rosters with his clients and still have world-class riders to spare.
14. Mauro Vegni (director, Giro d'Italia)
While ASO dominates the racing landscape, their Italian counterparts at RCS are still a comfortable second in the league of race organisers. The Milan-based organisation runs the Giro d'Italia, Milan-San Remo, Il Lombardia and Tirreno-Adriatico as part of their headline act, with Mauro Vegni their lead when it comes to event organisation.
13. Chris Froome (rider, Team Ineos)
Chris Froome is closer to the end of his career than the start, and hasn't won a Grand Tour since 2018, but the four-time Tour de France winner has etched his place in the history of the sport thanks to his unrivalled stage-race career since 2011. While Team Ineos teammate Egan Bernal represents the present and future, Froome is still both the past and present. Whether his future remains at Team Ineos is still unclear but the fact remains that he would walk into every WorldTour team and improve their roster.
12. Christian Prudhomme (director, Tour de France)
A former journalist, Prudhomme is the face of ASO and the Tour de France organisation. Since taking over from Jean-Marie Leblanc, he has overseen a number of sagas, but the Tour remains the heartbeat of the sport.
Tour de France website
11. Iwan Spekenbrink (manager, Team Sunweb & President, AIGCP)
Spekenbrink has been able to do what several other WorldTour team bosses have failed at, and run a successful operation that incorporates a men's, women's and under-23 squad. What's more, he's done so without a huge budget. His influence has filtered through into the AIGCP and Velon, and he has positioned himself as a major player in how the sport should operate.
10. Lance Armstrong (banned former rider)
There was a time when Armstrong was bigger than professional cycling, but a lifetime ban and the disgrace of having his seven Tour titles docked has ended that. However, the Texan – like it or not – still has influence, albeit of a different kind these days. When he talks, we listen, and in terms of stardom and infamy, he still has no equal.
9. Iris Slappendel (co-founder, The Cyclists' Alliance)
Highly regarded as the Billie Jean King of cycling – and not just by Outside Magazine – Iris Slappendel is on a mission to change the culture of the sport so that women can pursue it as a career in a safe environment with equal rights, opportunities and a livable salary. She is the co-founder of The Cyclists' Alliance – a riders' association that has a singular goal of establishing fairness for women through its range of support services.
Cyclists' Alliance Twitter
Cyclists' Alliance website
8. Justin Williams (rider and team owner)
Power and influence come in a variety of forms. For some, those attributes present themselves through wealth or material prosperity, but there are other forms of power within sport. After being denied opportunities, Justin Williams has created his own path into the sport, and he’s done it through determination, ability and resolve in the face of undeniable obstacles. His Legion of Los Angeles team has become an inspiration for a generation of African American and black athletes, and his fight to redress the inequality in cycling is both a beacon for where the sport lies and where it should be aiming for equality.
7. Amina Lanaya (director general, UCI)
In her 14-year career at the UCI, Amina Lanaya has risen from head of legal services to the sport governing body's first female director general. She oversees the day-to-day business operations – everything from competition calendars and marketing to communications and finances – but she also has a stated goal of bringing gender parity among athletes, in the governance of cycling and at the UCI headquarters.
6. Egan Bernal (rider, Team Ineos)
The Colombian is the reigning Tour de France champion and, at 23, he's arguably the rider who has the best chance of dominating Grand Tours for the next decade. It's no surprise that Bernal is tied to the most successful and powerful team in cycling – Team Ineos – for at least another three seasons.
5. Peter Sagan (rider, Bora-Hansgrohe)
According to French sports newspaper L'Equipe, Sagan is still the best-paid rider in the world, with an estimated salary in the region of €5.5m per season. The three-time world champion may have had a quiet season in 2019 by his standards, and there are younger riders coming through, but the Bora-Hansgrohe leader is still the undoubted star of his generation.
4. Dave Brailsford (manager, Team Ineos)
Brailsford's control at British Cycling may have ended, but his stature within cycling remains solid. At Team Ineos, he runs the most successful Tour de France team in recent history, and their vice-like grip on the maillot jaune shows no sign of softening. The Fancy Bears scandal and UKAD investigations into his team perhaps took the gloss off, but in terms of resources and influence as a team manager, he's leagues ahead of the rest.
Team Ineos Twitter
3. Yann Le Moënner (CEO, ASO)
Le Moënner has been ASO's CEO for well over a decade, and has been instrumental as the world's largest cycling-event organiser, having spread the Amaury Sport Organisation wings into North America, the Middle East, Asia and new markets in Europe. Below Marie-Odile Amaury, he is the most powerful individual at ASO.
2. David Lappartient (president, UCI)
As the head of cycling's governing body, David Lappartient holds the most important position when it comes to the structure and future of the sport. His reforms may have hit bumps in the road, but he's likely to receive another four-year term in 2021.
1. Marie-Odile Amaury (president, Groupe Amaury)
Marie-Odile Amaury is at the head of Groupe Amaury – a wealthy family business founded by Emilien Amaury and later run by her late husband (Émilien's son), Philippe Amaury. Cycling is its primary focus, with the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) running the Tour de France along with two of the sport's five 'Monuments' – Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – and more recently acquiring complete control of the Vuelta a España.
Amaury and her two adult children, Aurore and Jean-Etienne – newly-appointed joint Chief Executive Officers of Groupe Amaury – own 100 per cent of the company. This family is steeped in three generations of power and influence in the world of cycling. They have so much of it that they have been criticised for monopolising the sport and not sharing the wealth. This perceived fierce determination to protect their assets - which has been noted in the company's other ventures - effectively dictates the economics of professional cycling, and it's a tone that is set from the top.
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