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Cyclingnews 2006 Reader Poll Results
Rider of the Year
History has shown it's hard to ignore the rainbow warrior when it comes to choosing who will be Cyclingnews' 2006 Rider of the Year.
In his 11 year career, Paolo Bettini has transformed himself from promising neo-pro with a talent for the classics; to classics leader after his win in the 2000 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (which ultimately saw a falling out between him and his predecessor, Michele Bartoli); to world cup champion after wins in Milan-San Remo, HEW Cyclassics and the Clasica San Sebastian in 2003; to Olympic champion in Athens the following year; and finally, his crowning moment: 2006 world road champion.
'Il Grillo' took Cyclingnews' top prize with a massive 28.9 percent of the votes to runner-up Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner on tenterhooks mustering a hearty 19.8 percent. Sure, it wasn't as big a whitewash as it was with 2005's winner, Tom Boonen, but nevertheless, still very decisive.
No doubt aiding Bettini's chances was the ensuing fallout with Floyd after the Tour, which saw him test positive for testosterone after his remarkable Stage 17 breakaway victory. Landis' fate will most likely be known early this year. His future currently rests with the American Arbitration Association. If proven innocent, and if he does come back to win La Grande Boucle, one can be certain of a very different poll count in 2007.
In third place with 14.2 percent of the votes was ever-consistent Alejandro Valverde, winner of the 2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. At the Tour de France, the Spaniard was looking like a real threat for the top spot until an opening week crash put paid to his chances. But being the champion he is, Valverde came back and finished second overall at the Vuelta a España, the year's final Grand Tour.
Votes %ge 1 Paolo Bettini 3288 28.9 2 Floyd Landis 2246 19.8 3 Alejandro Valverde 1614 14.2 4 Tom Boonen 1078 9.5 5 Jens Voigt 695 6.1 6 Fabian Cancellara 607 5.3 7 Robbie McEwen 573 5.0 8 Oscar Pereiro 299 2.6 9 Marianne Vos 275 2.4 10 Erik Zabel 272 2.4 11 Viatcheslav Ekimov 141 1.2 12 Dave Zabriskie 114 1.0 13 Jan Ullrich 90 0.8 14 Levi Leipheimer 76 0.7 Total: 11369