Tricky but fun to compare across the years but here's some that would surely have to be in the running:
For many, Tom Simpson is known for his tragic demise on Mont Ventoux. But that surely overlooks a stellar palmares (particularly in the continental pro dominated 60s) that includes wins in the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Giro di Lombardia and two stages of the Vuelta. Plus 1965 World Road Race Champion. Legend.
A spiky, incredibly talented, singular minded and eccentric individual. At the forefront of English speakers arriving at the Tour and not just making up the numbers. CV includes the winning three stages at the Tour plus KoM, a stage of the Giro and KoM, a stage of the Vuelta (plus being 'robbed' of overall victory)Tour de France, the Dauphiné Libéré and National Road Race Champion.
Have to include someone from ANC-Halfords, so why not Ellioott? One Vuelta stage win seems scant return but still sticking it to guys up to 30 years younger while on the cusp of 50? I guess he enjoys racing.
For all his TdF exploits and numerous other wins, two rides stand out - 1992 Bacelona Olympics and 2000 Athlete's Hour. Add that to his epic tussle with Obree for the Hour Record in the mid 90s and it's inspiring.
If Millar is eccentric, what to make of Obree? Who else would attempt to break an incredibly tough Hour Record, fail and, in such a pit of despair, simply go again the next day and succeed? If you read it in a Boy's Own comic you'd think it too preposterous for words, let alone using a self designed bike. Add in the Superman position and it was like one of the classic British shed inventors taking on and beating the world. The most romantic career of the lot I reckon.
Sir Chris Hoy
Awesome, simply awesome.
Incredible versatility on road and track at the highest level - to reinvent himself from World class pursuiter to top road racer (even the 'disaster' of the 2010 TdF had him finishing in the early 20s, not the aim but not too shabby at all) - in a comparison with running, it would be like Coe stepping up from 800m and being competitive in the marathon. In a year. Stupid haircuts though.
Already the 'winningest' British pro. Confident, cocky, often arrogant. But who isn't lifted by a TdF finish when he comes out of the slipstream of another rider, sometimes not even from his own team, and leaves everyone standing? 24 Grand Tour stage wins with his 15 in the TdF being more than Indurain, Zabel, Cipollini. Incredible.
Leave aside her hatful of National and international wins, has to be included for the golden months of 2008 with Olympic and World Championship road race wins.
8 times World Champion. Olympic gold. Numerous other titles. Combine that level of talent, drive and achievement with beauty and it's difficult not to have a crush on Queen Victoria.
But surely Beryl is the greatest of the lot? A staggering list of achievements over an incredibly long period - 7 World titles on road and track (plus 4 Silver and 3 Bronze), 25
consecutive BBAR, outright national 12 hour record in 1965 that was not bettered by a man until 1967 (indeed in 1965 she passed the man who was setting the mens competition record and gave him a sweet. Which he ate). Surely this record will never be surpassed.
Any that I've foolishly overlooked or reasons why one is clearly head and shoulders above the others?