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Cyclingnews 2006 Reader Poll Results
Best Stage Race
The French grand tour dominates
By Gregor Brown
The Grand Tours dominated Cyclingnews' Best Stage Race poll, with the Tour de France proving its number one in the hearts of cycling fans, the other two big tour, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, followed in second and third, nearly 4,000 votes behind.
Fans were put to the test this last July when the Tour de France was rocked hard on two occasions; first with the Operación Puerto exclusions and then, after the race was complete, when doping test results showed that Floyd Landis, the overall winner, achieved his stage 17 win to Morzine under the influence of testosterone. But those problems revealed something else, that the race has roots which run very deep, enableing it to be thrilling from many different angles.
La Grand Boucle treats its viewers to lovely scenery as it travels for three weeks across France. The scenery is of course backed by exciting racing, from sprinting feats to mountain madness. Everyone tunes in each year to see the best sprinters battle on some thrilling finales while once the race heads south the mountain men take over.
The Pyrenees and Alps are the showcases for some of the best climbers in the world. If a rider has no desire, or ability, to win the overall they would still give every bit of muscle they have to win a mountain stage. Those long, arduous affairs draw in the attention from the cycling world. Fans camp for days waiting to see the riders, drenched in sweat, go painfully past. And if it is done right, the win goes down in history, just look at our Most Improved rider, Frank Schleck's win on Alpe d'Huez.
Schleck's battle up the Tour's famed climb was thrilling and gave fans a glimpse at two of cycling's future stars, including Italian Damiano Cunego in second. But not only on the Alpe, every other of the 20 days proved pivotal as the battle for the maillot jaune unfolded.
Even with riders like Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso given the boot before the Grand Départ and although we are still lacking a clear overall winner, the race brings joy to the hearts of many. The words "Tour de France" summarize cycling for most of the world, brings images of yellow to mind, be it sunflowers or the leader's jersey, and proves its power year after year. From one July to the next, fans are always talking about the past Tour or the upcoming Tour, and that showed in our poll.
Interesting races occupy fourth and fifth spots. The Tour of Georgia and Tour of California are both many years younger than the top-three races but are proving the growing support of racing in the United States. The short stage races are early in the year and pack enough domestic and European riders to bring out the fans.
Votes %ge 1 Tour de France 6134 55.0 2 Giro d'Italia 1978 17.7 3 Vuelta a Espana 1405 12.6 4 Tour of California 518 4.6 5 Tour de Georgia 325 2.9 6 Critérium du Dauphiné 170 1.5 7 Tour de Suisse 157 1.4 8 Paris-Nice 146 1.3 9 Tour de Romandie 135 1.2 10 Deutschland Tour 133 1.2 11 Eneco Tour 49 0.4 Total: 11150