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Who is the best cyclist of all time?

We thank the experts over at Fair Vote for their technical assistance in this test vote; they’ll also be supporting the count of the board election.

The board of directors vote will begin on December 13. Here is a list of the candidates standing for member election; their profiles will be posted before the voting begins.

The League is moving to a preferential voting system for the upcoming board election. In order to test our systems, we ran a survey for our members on our website. We asked you to rank a list of 10 cyclists from 1 to 10, and then used the principles of instant runoff voting (IRV) to determine the all-time best cyclist, and the four runners up, in a trial run of how we’ll elect our five board members. Here’s how the vote was calculated.

In the first ballot, Eddie Merckx had a simple majority of the first place votes, with 68 votes of 133 cast. He’s our best cyclist of all time, and was elected to the five member “best cyclist” board.

First ballot, number of first-place votes

Eddie Merckx 68

Fausto Coppi 1

Gino Bartali 1

Jacques Anquetil 2

Jeannie Longo 16

Lance Armstrong 18

Marshall “Major” Taylor26

None of the Above1

Bernard Hinault, Francesco Moser, and Graeme Obree received no first-place votes.

With Merckx already elected to the board, we turned our attention to the second slot. Merckx’s name was removed from all the ballots, redistributing those 68 first place votes to the second name on each of those ballots. While Lance Armstrong had fewer votes than Major Taylor before Merckx’s votes were redistributed, he had the lead when the second ballot began, and he would never look back. Here’s how the vote looked at the beginning of the second round.

First place votes at the beginning of the polling for the second slot

Fausto Coppi13

Jacques Anquetil4

Jeannie Longo30

Lance Armstrong38

Marshall “Major” Taylor35

Gino Bartali5

Bernard Hinault7

There was no candidate with a majority, so we began removing the cyclists with the fewest first-place votes from the ballots, and redistributing their first place votes to the next cyclists on those ballots. First Obree and Moser, who got no first place votes, were removed, then Anquetil, Bartali and Hinault. Armstrong, Taylor, Longo, and Coppi all gained votes as the runoffs were calculated, but their relative order never changed. Coppi was eliminated in the fifth runoff, leaving three candidates:

First place votes for the second slot, after the elimination of Fausto Coppi

Jeannie Longo36

Lance Armstrong50

Marshall “Major” Taylor46

There were more than enough votes in play when Jeannie Longo was eliminated to put Major Taylor over the top, but her ballots were split equally between Armstrong and Taylor, and Armstrong won the second slot by 4 votes over Major Taylor, almost exactly the difference between the two men at the beginning of the ballot.

Armstrong was then eliminated from all of the ballots to conduct the runoffs for the third slot. The third election was very similar to the second — cyclists were eliminated in the same order, and Major Taylor led from the first ballot to the last.

The instant runoff system played a more interesting role in the election of the fourth candidate to our “board,” following the election of Merckx, Armstrong, and Taylor (and their elimination from the ballots for the remaining two slots.

Vote distribution at the beginning of the fourth runoff election:

Bernard Hinault22

Fausto Coppi32

Gino Bartali 6

Graeme Obree 6

Jacques Anquetil18

Jeannie Longo46

Bartali and Obree were eliminated first, with the order of elimination being unimportant, since six additional votes would not have saved either man from being the next to be eliminated.

Fourth “board” slot election after the elimination of Bartali and Obree

Bernard Hinault25

Fausto Coppi35

Jacques Anquetil20

Jeannie Longo50

Jacques Anquetil gained only two votes in the redistribution process, and was the next to be eliminated. Jeannie Longo’s commanding lead suddenly evaporated, as 17 of the redistributed votes went to Fausto Coppi, with only 1 to Longo, and 2 to Hinault. (You’ll note at this point in the process that the total number of votes is shrinking a little, as some ballots are “exhausted” as a result voters who did not rank any of the remaining cyclists.)

Fourth “board” slot election after the elimination of Bartali, Obree, and Anquetil

Bernard Hinault27

Fausto Coppi52

Jeannie Longo51

Hinault’s 27 votes could have cast the result in either direction, but at this point you had to suspect where things were headed: a voting block of fans of European men’s road racing was now setting the pace. And indeed, Coppi received 2/3rds of the reallocated ballots, to win the fourth slot by a 10 vote margin.

Vote counts at the beginning of the runoff for the fifth slot

Bernard Hinault31

Francesco Moser1

Gino Bartali11

Graeme Obree 8

Jacques Anquetil28

Jeannie Longo50

Jeannie Longo began the balloting for the fifth board slot with a commanding lead. As her competition were dropped, one by one, she slowly added to her vote total, but Hinault was gaining ground, buoyed by the same voting block that had pushed Coppi into the fourth slot. She did attain the required majority in the final ballot, winning 67 votes to 62 after the elimination of Jacques Anquetil.

Top five cyclists of all time, as voted by League of American Bicyclists members:

  1. Eddie Merckx
  2. Lance Armstrong
  3. Marshall”Major” Taylor
  4. Fausto Coppi
  5. Jeannie Longo
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