Who is the tallest pro cyclist, and why does it matter?

Why does the UCI maintain a list of tall riders? Who is the shortest pro cyclist?

From the feather-weight mountain goats to the power-packed track sprinters, there is no catch-all shape and size for cyclists.

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But giant cyclists are the rarity – hauling your body over the mountains of the Grand Tours favours lighter riders.

ProCyclingStats crunched the data in 2017 and found the average weight of riders on the men’s WorldTour was 68.8kg and their average height was 180.9cm.

So, who are the riders at the extremes of the data? Who are the giants of the peloton and who is the tallest ever?

The tallest pro cyclist: Conor Dunne, 2.04m

Dunne is a true giant of today's peloton
Dunne is a true giant of today’s peloton.
Getty / Kei Tsuji / Stringer

Conor Dunne, the 2018 Irish champion, rode his second Grand Tour in 2019, finishing his maiden Giro d’Italia in 135th place overall for the Israel Cycling Academy.

This is no mean feat for a rider that stands at 6ft8in (2.04m) and towers over the peloton.

The lanterne rouge at the 2017 Vuelta a España with Aqua Blue Sport, Dunne started his career at An Post Chain Reaction and also spent a year with JLT Condor.

At An Post, bike sponsors Vitus had to create a new XXL 62cm (yes, sixty-two!) frame size to accommodate him, with a longer top tube allowing extra reach.

Who is the tallest pro cyclist ever?

ECUADOR-ARGENTINA CICLISMO ORO
Guillermo Brunetta matches Dunne at 2.04m.
Martin Bernetti / Getty

Dunne’s extraordinary height, which has spawned plenty of photos of the Irishman posing alongside some of the peloton’s more diminutive riders, takes some beating.

In fact, it would seem no other rider has ever been taller – although Argentine Guillermo Brunetta matches Dunne at 2.04m.

Brunetta was not just tall, he also weighed in at 97kg – a product of his track-cycling upbringing.

Brunetta’s career was spent in South America, where his powerful frame was put to good effect in winning four national time-trial titles.

Giants of the peloton

The UCI actually maintains a list of all riders taller than 1.90m (6ft 2in) – for reasons outlined below.

While the accuracy of the height data in the list is questionable – Dunne, for example, is down at 1.91m – the biggest riders in the peloton are all listed.

Three more riders are a fraction under the two-metre mark: Stijn Vandenbergh, Andrew Levitt and Dion Beukeboom.

Belgian Vandenbergh is the best known and, it is little surprise with his frame and 85kg weight, he has preferred the cobbles throughout his career, where the more powerful riders thrive.

The 35-year-old, who rides for Ag2r-La-Mondiale, has finished fourth at the Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, but has only ridden two Grand Tours. He finished the 2009 Tour de France in 93rd place and climbed off the following year.

American rider Levitt and Dutchman Beukeboom are less well known, but the latter’s best result of the 2019 season came in the Dutch time trial, and his season also centred on semi-Classics.

Who is the shortest pro cyclist?: Tom Pidcock, 1.57m

At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, Samuel Dumoulin was the shortest man in the WorldTour peloton last year at just 1.59m. His imminent retirement means Esteban Chaves will inherit his crown, standing at 1.64m.

There are smaller riders out there, however. Team Wiggins Le Col’s rising British star Tom Pidcock is just 1.57m, and the smallest male cyclist recorded appears to be Vicente Belda at 1.54m.

32nd Women WT Emakumeen. Bira 2019 - Stage 3
Eider Merino Cortazar is reported to weigh a, frankly ridiculous, 40kg!
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Stringer / Getty

Movistar’s Eider Moreno, in the women’s peloton, is also just 1.54m and the diminutive Spanish climber weighs just 40kg too according to the team.

Why does the UCI maintain a list of the tallest riders?

PERSHORE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Conor Dunne of Ireland and Team Israel Cycling Academy / during the 16th Tour of Britain 2019, Stage 6 a 14,4km stage from Pershore to Pershore / ITT / @TourofBritain / #OVOToB / on September 12, 2019 in Pershore, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Taller riders are granted a small amount of leeway with their position.
Stephen Pond / Stringer / Getty

So, why does the UCI need to know riders taller than 1.90m? The answer relates to equipment regulations and the reach allowed on aero extension bars.

Since tightening up on regulations (outlawing the Superman position), the horizontal distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the tips of the extension bars must be no more than 75cm for most riders. Those over 1.90m get extra scope – theirs can be 85cm.

Even that is not necessarily enough for all, however – Dunne appealed for even more leeway earlier in his career to no avail, arguing his aero position still saw his knees hit his handlebars.

Does height matter?

In short, yes height does matter for cycling… sort of.

ProCyclingStats’ 2017 study found the top time-triallists were, on average, taller than the average WorldTour pro. At the opposite end of the scale, climbers were much shorter; the top climbers were, on average, 1.6cm shorter than the top sprinters and 2.7cm shorter than the average WorldTour pro.

There will always be exceptions to the rule, however. Chris Froome, for example, is 1.86m – much taller than his Grand Tour rivals.

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The key factor is not height, but power – and your power-to-weight ratio.