Who is the tallest Tour de France cyclist, and why does it matter?

Why does the UCI maintain a list of tall riders? And who will be the tallest cyclist at the 2021 Tour de France?

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

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But particularly pro road cyclists are the rarity – hauling your body over the mountains of the Grand Tours generally 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 will be the tallest and shortest riders at the 2021 Tour de France? And does it have any impact on performance?

Who is the tallest pro cyclist ever?

Conor Dunne, 2.04m

Dunne is a true giant of today's peloton
Conor Dunne regularly towered over his rivals in the pro peloton.
Getty / Kei Tsuji / Stringer

Conor Dunne, the 2018 Irish champion, never rode the Tour de France but he was at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana and the 2019 Giro d’Italia, and completed both.

He was the lanterne rouge at the Vuelta with Aqua Blue Sport and finished the Giro in 135th place overall for the Israel Cycling Academy… which is no mean feat considering the Irishman is 6ft 8in (2.04m) tall and towered over the peloton.

Dunne started his career at An Post Chain Reaction and also spent a year with JLT Condor, before getting his Grand Tour chance with Aqua Blue Sport and the Israel Cycling Academy. He ended his career after the 2019 season, after being unable to find a team for the new year.

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

Guillermo Brunetta, 2.04m

Dunne isn’t the only 6ft 8in giant to have enjoyed a career on two wheels.

While it seems no pro rider has ever been taller, Guillermo Brunetta is the same height as Irishman at 2.04m.

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

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 in the 2000s, where his powerful frame was put to good effect in winning four Argentinean national time-trial titles.

Keeping record

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 listed at 1.91m – the tallest riders in the peloton are all recorded.

Three riders are registered at 1.99m (6ft 5in) – Stijn Vandenbergh, Andrew Levitt and Dion Beukeboom – but, like Dunne, none of the trio are still active in the peloton.

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

The 35-year-old finished fourth at the Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, but only rode two Grand Tours. He finished the 2009 Tour de France in 93rd place and climbed off the following year.

GORIZIA, ITALY - MAY 23: Victor Campenaerts of Belgium, Kilian Frankiny of Switzerland, Bertjan Lindeman of Netherlands, Mauro Schmid of Switzerland, Max Walscheid of Germany, Lukasz Wisniowski of Poland and Team Qhubeka Assos during the 104th Giro d'Italia 2021, Stage 15 a 147km stage from Grado to Gorizia / #UCIworldtour / @girodiitalia / #Giro / on May 23, 2021 in Gorizia, Italy. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)
Max Walscheid (second from the right if you couldn’t guess) is the tallest cyclist in the 2021 Tour de France.
Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

The tallest current pro cyclist is Max Walscheid. Though he is 1.97m on the UCI list, he is actually two centimetres taller, making him the same height as the aforementioned trio.

It also means Walscheid is the tallest pro cyclist on the 2021 Tour de France start list for the second consecutive year, with the German having made his Tour debut last season before finishing 134th overall.

Walscheid has also ridden the Vuelta a Espana twice (2018, 2019) and finished the Giro d’Italia in May to complete his Grand Tour hat-trick.

Who are the tallest cyclists at the 2021 Tour de France?

  • Max Walscheid (Team Qhubeka-Assos) – 1.99m
  • Michael Schar (Ag2r Citroen Team) – 1.98m
  • Reto Hollenstein (Israel-Start Up Nation) – 1.97m
  • Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo) – 1.97m
  • Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) – 1.95m

Who is the shortest pro cyclist?

At the other end of the scale, Samuel Dumoulin – a veteran of 12 Tours de France before his 2019 retirement, and a stage winner in 2008 – stood at just 1.59m (5ft 2in).

His retirement in 2019, however, means two Colombians set for the 2021 Tour de France are the shortest riders in the WorldTour peloton.

Esteban Chaves will ride the 2021 Tour de France for Team BikeExchange.
Esteban Chaves will ride the 2021 Tour de France for Team BikeExchange.
Tim de Waele / Getty Images

Esteban Chaves and Miguel Angel Lopez are each recorded at 1.64m (5ft 4in). Colombia actually posts four of the five shortest riders at the 2021 Tour de France.

There are smaller riders out there, however. The smallest male cyclist recorded appears to be Vicente Belda at 1.54m (5ft).

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

32nd Women WT Emakumeen. Bira 2019 - Stage 3
Eider Merino Cortazar is the shortest rider in the women’s peloton.
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Stringer / Getty

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 developed by Graeme Obree), 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 riders over 1.90m get extra scope – theirs can be 85cm.

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

Does height matter?

In short, yes, height does matter for professional 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 (6ft 1in) – much taller than most of his Grand Tour rivals.

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However, the key factor is not height, but power – and, for climbing, the power-to-weight ratio.