Ahhh, the Tour de France - picturesque, thrilling, the essence of summer in France... Cyclingnews readers took these into account by voting it the year's best stage race in our annual poll.
La Grande Boucle was a clear winner, with 8,329 votes, a massive 59 percent of the ballot.
It's clear to see why this year's edition of the world's biggest annual sporting event captured the imagination of our readers; the return of Lance Armstrong and subsequent spat with Alberto Contador, the continued rise of Andy and Frank Schleck, encapsulated in their performance on stage 17 (pictured below), Bradley Wiggins' brilliant fourth place overall - the equal highest ever for a British rider - and the dominance of a resurgent Astana squad.
Over 4,000 votes behind was the Giro d'Italia, the centenary edition of the race and a blistering three weeks of competition enthralling readers from the start in Venice to the final day and all its drama in Rome. The likes of Carlos Sastre, Armstrong, Danilo Di Luca and overall champion Denis Menchov provided a fantastic event, befitting the amazing parcours, weather and atmosphere served up in cycling's sentimental homeland.
A fairly distant third was the Vuelta a España, and although it garnered only 480 votes, it was by no means a poor cousin in terms of entertainment and drama. The heartbreak of Cadel Evans' stage 12 mechanical, Alejandro's triumphant statement in his homeland and Samuel Sanchez's gutsy fightback to finish second overall made it an entertaining spectacle.
Races such as the Tour of California, which last year suffered from bad weather blues that forced a date change to May for this year's edition, plus Paris-Nice and Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré all enjoyed good patronage from Cyclingnews readers, but it was the passion that the Tour evokes that saw it again voted the year's best multi-day event.
Cyclingnews 2009 Reader Poll results - Best stage race
Tour de France: 8329
Giro d'Italia: 4137
Vuelta a España: 480
Tour of California: 433
Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré: 211
Tour de Suisse: 154
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