Vincenzo Nibali's dominant victory at the 2014 Tour de France, including his dramatic ride over the cobbles on stage five, drove the three-week French race to the top of the 2014 Cyclingnews Reader Poll as the best stage race of the year. The Grand Tours ruled the day in the poll, with only the UCI 2.HC Tour of California slipping onto the podium in third place.
The Tour de France easily grabbed the top spot in the poll, pulling in more than 42 percent of the vote, compared with the Giro d'Italia, which claimed the runner-up spot at 20.37 percent. The California race came in next at 13.92 percent, with the Vuelta a España nipping at California's heels with 11.99 percent. A second US one-week race rounded out the top five, with the USA Pro Challenge picked by 7.18 percent of the respondents.
Nibali's romp through the Tour began with a second-day win on his way to taking four stages and the overall by more than seven minutes over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud of Ag2r-La Mondiale. Nibali took the yellow jersey with his stage two win, then surrendered it briefly to Tony Gallopin after stage nine. But the 30-year-old Italian reclaimed the jersey the very next day and wore it all the way to Paris, capturing his first Tour de France of his career.
Nairo Quintana's battle for his first Grand Tour win at the Giro d'Italia, which saw five riders in the Maglia Rosa throughout the three weeks, was the next-best stage race of the year in the Cyclingnews Reader Poll. The Movistar rider battled fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran over the mountains in the last half of the race, eventually beating the Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider by nearly three minutes when the race concluded in Trieste.
Surprisingly, Alberto Contador's win at the Vuelta was considered the least exciting Grand Tour of 2014, according to the poll respondents, even though it was the most tightly contested three-week race. With both Contador and 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome racing in Spain after abandoning the Tour in July – along with 2014 Giro winner Quintana taking the start of the Spanish race, the Vuelta looked on paper to be a premiere heavyweight bout. Indeed, Contador beat Froome by just 70 seconds when all was said and done, but Cyclingnews' readers favored a different battle for the poll's final podium spot.
Bradley Wiggins' overall win at his first Tour of California topped the Vuelta in the poll by slightly less than two percentage points, lifting the ninth edition of the race into third place in this year's poll. Wiggins took the race's yellow jersey during the stage two individual time trial in Folsom, then relied on his Team Sky teammates to help him keep it all the way to the overall finish in Thousand Oaks.
Over the eight days, stage winners other than Wiggins included Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), Will Routley (Optum), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale). Wiggins eventually beat Dennis in the overall by 30 seconds and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano) by 1:48.
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