1. The Return Of Lance
Lance Armstrong’s presence defined and shaped this year’s Tour de France more than any one single event. From race tactics, media coverage, and even product releases, the Tour revolved around Armstrong. Despite not winning, the 2009 Tour de France was Tour de Lance.
2. Cancellara’s Stage One Victory
If his domination on the final time trial at the Tour of Switzerland didn’t convince you that Cancellara is the best time trialist in the world, then his stage one victory did. Cancellara powered around the streets of Monaco with such strength that he held on to yellow until the first mountain stage.
3. Cavendish Times Six
There are simply too many Cavendish moments from the 2009 Tour de France to pick just one. Because of this we are rolling all six-stage victories together. Cavendish was unbeatable in sprints, usually finishing bike lengths ahead of riders like Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar and Oscar Freire. While Cavendish failed to capture the Green Jersey, he broke the record for number of stage victories by a British rider and tied the record number of sprint victories in a single Tour. When the road was flat, Cavendish ruled the Tour.
4. Armstrong Puts The Hammer Down
If there were ever any questions about Armstrong’s intentions and his feelings toward Alberto Contador they were put to rest on stage three. As the peloton broke apart in stiff cross winds a gap opened between Armstrong and Contador. Instead of backing off and letting Contador bridge, Armstrong marshaled the members of Astana loyal to him, mainly Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia and drove the group to the finish. The work of Popovych and Zubeldia led to Contador losing 40 seconds to Armstrong.
5. Voeckler’s Stage Win
Thomas Voeckler isn’t a big winner, yet he has managed to carve out an amazing palmares including the 2004 French national title, 10 days in the yellow jersey during the 2004 edition of the Tour de France, the GP Plouay classic and now a stage of the Tour de France. Voeckler’s win was tactically brilliant as he attacked at the right moment and then held his gap just long enough to break the will of his pursuers. Voeckler’s win is confirmation for the darling of French cycling and served as notice that the French are again winners in their own race.
6. Contador Attacks
The question loomed over the Astana team and the race. Who is the leader of Astana? Contador answered this question in no uncertain terms on stage seven. As Brice Feillu was winning the stage, Contador attacked the favorites with only Andy Schleck being able to give chase. In just a few short kilometers Contador made it clear that he was a level above anyone else in the race ? including Armstrong.
7. Crash of Jens Voigt
Jens Voigt is one of Road Bike Action’s favorite riders. His strength and aggression are so legendary that there is an old joke in the peloton that his legs are named Law and Order. Voigt’s crash on stage 16 was horrible and served as a reminder of the dangers of the sport. It was also a reminder that bad things happen to good people. Thankfully Voigt will make a full recovery and be back next year.
8. Contador attacks Kloden and Armstrong
Any calm within in Astana was smashed on stage 15 when Contador, while in the company of the Schleck brothers and his own Astana teammate Andreas Kloden, attacked dropping Kloden and preventing Armstrong from bridging to the lead group. From Contador’s point of view it was wise to attack, as it is clear he did not trust Armstrong or Kloden. However in doing so he dragged both Frank and Andy Schleck over Kloden and Armstrong in the general classification and ended the chances of an Astana sweep of the podium. The move also shattered any unity in the Astana team and brought upon the wrath of Johan Bruyneel who had ordered Contador not to attack.
9. Armstrong Announces RadioShack Team
The final nail in the coffin of Astana came with the announcement from Armstrong that he had formed a new team for the 2010 season with title sponsor RadioShack. Expected to follow Armstrong to the new team is Johan Bruyneel, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, Andreas Kloden, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia Janez Brajkovic and Tomas Vaitkus. Team RadioShack is basically a rebooted version of the dominating US Postal and Discovery teams that brought Armstrong and Bruyneel their seven consecutive Tour de France titles.
10. Mount Ventoux
Mount Ventoux didn’t decide the Tour in the manner that Tour organizers were hoping. There was no last minute shuffling of the podium and the favorites failed to crack each other. However, the Ventoux still played a major role in the outcome of the 2009 Tour de France. From the second rest day on all the favorites judged their efforts and held their cards close to the chest in anticipation of an epic battle on the Ventoux. The only rider to risk failure on the Ventoux in the final week was Andy Schleck who attacked repeatedly in a vain attempt to break Contador.