During Lance Armstrong’s dynasty, no pro cyclist came close to looking as good as the Texan–on or off the bike. The retired rider won’t be competing in this year’s Tour de France, but we will get to see the crowd-pleasing celebrity and seven-time champion in the role of spectator and party host for the final stages of July’s biggest and best sporting event. Until then, we’ll just have to drool over the current crop of professionals vying to flash a winning smile at the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Here are ten of the greats to keep us occupied.
10. Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank-SunGard
The defending Tour de France champion may not be known for having skills as a team player, but that doesn’t mean the pint-sized Spaniard can’t pack an attractive punch. Dubbed as “El Pistelero” for his post-win tactics, Alberto Contador can ride with the best of them. With those dark brown eyes and brooding presence, what’s not to love–besides the looming doping allegations, of course. Best wishes on getting all that sorted out. See his photo gallery.
9. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto
The Belgian pro took the first stage of this year’s tour by storm, and ever since we haven’t been able to get the talented chap out of our minds. The man can pull off bleached blonde hair, and as if that’s not enough said, Philippe Gilbert has a perfect smile. See the golden boy in his golden jersey.
8. Thor Hushovd, Team Garmin-Cervelo
Norway’s own Thor Hushovd lights up a road like few others can. The Road World Champion looks good in his rainbow jersey, but he looks even better in yellow–a color we’ve been privileged to see him in on several occasions this year alone. Scrawny wannabes need not apply; they can’t compare to a man who shares the same name as the mythological icon of thunder and strength. The powerhouse stands at 6 feet tall and commands attention. View his Garmin-Cervelo photo gallery here.
7. Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack
Visually speaking, Armstrong’s former teammate Levi Leipheimer may, in fact, be the closet Lance incarnate we have riding in the 2011 Tour de France. With their helmets, glasses and Team RadioShack jerseys on, Levi could contend as a dead ringer for the retiree, but Leipheimer has a sultry style all to himself. The laid-back Californian doesn’t position himself as the typical poster boy for hotness, which only adds to his widespread appeal. Check out photos on his Facebook page.
6. Tyler Farrar, Team Garmin-Cervelo
The American cutie has a natural, school-boy charm. The fact that Tyler’s appeal transcends national boundaries may have a little to do with hailing from Washington but residing in Belgium, a little to do with the nature of his speed on a bike, and a little to do with his fresh face and bright eyes. Check him out, we mean check his athletic profile out, here.
5. Mark Cavendish, HTC-Highroad
Even his critics should agree: the Manx Missile looks good in green. Mark Cavendish, with his bold personality and a fashion sense to match, always dresses to impress. The superstar may say he has “munchkin legs” and “not the prettiest face in the world,” but that kind of self-deprecation isn’t fooling anyone. Let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we? The fastest sprinter in the world is hot. The pictures don’t lie.
4. George Hincapie, BMC Racing Team
No stranger to the Tour de France, Big George knows his way around the course–and knows his way into a woman’s heart, picking up his tour souvenir in the form of a wife. Hincapie’s role as a key domestique to greats like Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans has made him a fan favorite, and the fact that he’s easy on the eyes is just icing on the cake for the female audience. View his photo gallery to see some great shots.
3. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard Trek
The General Classification great may be known for playing second fiddle to Contador, but Andy’s a clear standout for general charisma. The tall and slender cyclist leaves little to be desired, and when he opens his mouth for an interview, things just get better. Now’s also a good time to give a shout-out to older brother Frank, who’s a stud in his own right. Luxembourg, and Mama and Papa Schleck, did good. Catch Andy’s profile here.
2. Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale
Italian Ivan Basso is the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. The long-time pro has been lighting up television screens throughout the world, regardless of his standings in the race. You can visit his website, but–warning–if you’re not careful, those puppy-dog eyes might just make you melt.
1. Bernie Eisel, HTC-Highroad
Bernie Eisel could top a hot list regardless if the modifier “cycling” is involved or not. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it–and Bernie Eisel has got it. Some cycling fans are keeping their eyes on the Austrian pro given his role in the team as HTC’s Road Captain, but others just know a looker when they see one. Instead of saying what’s great about Mr. Eisel, it’d be easier to sum up what’s wrong with him: nothing. We guess the face of cycling is doing just fine sans celebrity Lance Armstrong after all. Treat yourself to his picture and bio here.