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5 of the Best Australian Cyclists

5 top australian cyclistsFor a nation of only 23 million people, Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to producing world-class sportspeople. Australia is the home of superstars in swimming, tennis, soccer, netball, cricket and golf to name just a few. And, of course, there’s cycling. Australians have won the Tour de France and we regularly excel at the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

At the risk of omitting some greats, here’s a list of five of Australia’s best cyclists from across time and in no particular order.

Kathy Watt

One of Australia’s best-known female cyclists, Victorian Kathy Watt became a household name during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the 181km road race and silver in the 3,000m track individual pursuit. According to Australian Olympic Committee historian Harry Gordon, Watt was relatively unknown on the international stage during the Olympic road race and managed to slip through the pack to clinch victory while all attention was on her more celebrated opponents.

Phil Anderson

Phil Anderson was perhaps the first Australian to really make it big on the European touring cycle circuit. His career spanned from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. He gained status by winning gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, and in subsequent years won two stages of the Tour de France, becoming the first non-European entrant to wear a yellow jersey.

Anna Meares

Anna Meares is one of Australia’s most successful cyclists in the sprint domain. At the 2004 Olympics, she took gold and the world record in the 500m time trial, followed by silver in a sprint event at the 2008 Games. Four years later at the London Olympics, she won a gold and a bronze medal in sprint events to add to her two gold medals earned at the World Championships. At the 2013 Track World Cup she was the first female to break the 33-second barrier for the 500m time trial event. In honour of her achievements, Meares has a bike path in Adelaide, her hometown, named after her.

Sir Hubert Opperman

Sir Hubert Opperman was the first Australian cyclist to gain any measure of fame, and the first to compete in Europe. In the 1928 Tour de France, he finished 18th. Opperman’s career spanned 20 years, during which he broke approximately 100 records in Australia, Europe and Britain. His time as a professional cyclist concluded when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force as World War II unfolded. Following the war, he entered politics, serving as a Cabinet-level minister and then as High Commissioner to Malta, earning him a knighthood.

Opperman continued to support distance cycling throughout his life and is reported to have died on an exercise bike just short of his 92nd birthday.

Cadel Evans

Perhaps the best-known Australian cyclist in recent years is Cadel Evans, thanks to his victory at the Tour de France in 2011. A native of the Northern Territory and later settling in Victoria, Evans started his cycling career as a mountain biker but switched to road racing in 2000. Since then, he has won the 2009 World Road Cycling Championship and won or finished in the top echelons of a multitude of prestigious races and championships, in addition to the crowning glory of the French tour.

If these top cyclists have inspired you to become a better rider and take on the cream of Australian cycling, stock up on all your gear at a specialist bicycle retailer like 99 Bikes. Who’s your inspiration to cycle? Or what do you think is Australia’s most noteworthy cycling moment so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below.