Schleck's mishap on Port de Balès put Contador in yellow
In a Tour de France chock full of drama, the end game of the 187.5km stage 15 provided the Biggest Moment of 2010, as voted by Cyclingnews readers.
While Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) was well ahead of the GC contenders, soloing to victory, Tour leader Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) put in a strong attack approximately 2km from the Port de Balès summit. Moments later, however, the yellow-clad Luxembourger screeched to a halt with a dropped chain while Alberto Contador (Astana), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) sped past.
After Schleck fixed his drive train, he put in a powerful surge to crest the Port de Balès summit only 13 seconds behind the Contador group. Schleck would lose time, however, on the lengthy, 21.5km-descent to Bagneres-de-Luchon and crossed the finish line 39 seconds behind Contador. As a result, the Spaniard donned yellow for the first time in the 2010 Tour by the slimmest of margins: eight seconds with five stages remaining.
Should Contador have waited for Schleck, the Tour maillot jaune? That's the million dollar question and one likely to be discussed for years to come. The video and grainy photography of Schleck's mechanical, dubbed "Chain-gate" for lack of a better term, have been dissected with as much fervor as the Zapruder film.
Adding more fuel to the fire was Contador's final margin of victory in Paris - 39 seconds - the exact amount of time Schleck conceded on stage 15.
Schleck famously proclaimed, "My stomach is full of anger. I'm going to take my revenge on the Tourmalet." And while the much-hyped Tourmalet stage finish ended in a stalemate, Schleck may yet be awarded yellow.
While Schleck was at the ignominious receiving end of the Biggest Moment of 2010, the Luxembourger's teammate Fabian Cancellara, already voted Cyclingnews' 2010 Male Road Rider of the Year, dished out the pain to Tom Boonen (Quick Step) on the Kapelmuur at the Tour of Flanders to finish as runner-up in the voting.
The Ronde had become a two-man race between Cancellara and Boonen when the duo attacked 45km from the finish near the summit of the Molenberg.
As the duo ascended the Kapelmuur, Cancellara delivered the knockout blow to Belgian champion Boonen, a two-time Ronde winner, on the steepest pitch of the cobbled climb. Such was the devastation of Cancellara's attack that he would later be accused, via a YouTube video, of having motorized assistance on his bike.
Cancellara passed the chapel at the top of the Kapelmuur with a 12-second advantage over Boonen which the then three-time world time trial champion extended to 1:14 over the final 20km for the Swiss rider's first Tour of Flanders victory.
"I suppose it was a perfect race," said Cancellara afterwards. "Even my attacks were perfectly timed. Going on the Molenberg was the right moment and then I had to try on the Muur because that's where the legend and history of this race are made."
The legend and history of the 2010 Giro d'Italia were certainly enhanced in the third-placed Moment of the Year, where world champion Cadel Evans (BMC) powered to victory over muddy strade bianche to claim stage seven. While Paris-Roubaix was dry this year, rain and mud reigned supreme in the stage finale where the Australian bested a six-man escape for stage honours while third-placed Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) regained the maglia rosa from Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), who came to grief on rain-slicked roads.
Cyclingnews Reader Poll results - Biggest moment
1. Andy Schleck dropping his chain on the Port de Balès summit during stage 15 of the Tour de France. 4177 votes (24.9%)
2. Fabian Cancellara's attack on the Kapelmuur during the Tour of Flanders. 3641 (21.7%)
3. World champion Cadel Evans winning a rainy and muddy stage 7 at the Giro d'Italia, featuring sections of the famed strade bianche. 3011 (17.9%)
4. Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck duelling it out on the Tourmalet in stage 17 of the Tour de France. 1587 (9.5%)
5. The finale of stage 3 at the Tour de France, featuring punishing sectors of Paris-Roubaix cobblestones, provided a season's worth of drama in one afternoon. 1354 (8.1%)
6. Ben King's solo breakaway at the US professional road championships. 549 (3.3%)
7. The day the Floyd Landis allegations broke. 496 (2.9%)
8. Stage 8 of the Tour de France and the realisation that Armstrong's ambitions were over - three crashes and nearly 12 minutes lost to the favourites. 454 (2.7%)
9. Mark Cavendish winning his first stage at the Tour this year and then being overcome with emotion on the podium. 351 (2.1%)
10. Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne being run in the storm called Xynthia, with crazy wind and rain, in which only 26 riders finished. 303 (1.8&)
11. The showdown between Mick Rogers and David Zabriskie on the final day of the Amgen Tour of California. 217 (1.3%)
12. Sylvain Chavanel solos to victory and the yellow jersey in stage 2 of the Tour de France, while the peloton stages a protest about road conditions. 215 (1.3%)
13. Jose Antonio Hermida won his first cross country mountain bike world championship with a gutsy ride 14 years into his career, an emotional victory for a deserving champion. 189 (1.1%)
14. The last 10 minutes of the 2010 elite women's cross country mountain bike world championship race - with its rock gardens, crashes and last minute medal shuffling - made it one of the most exciting mountain bike races to watch. 141 (0.8%)
15. Husband and wife duo Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan Kobelski repeat an improbable feat - doubling up on winning the US Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships for the second year in a row. 102 (0.6%)