What do you have to do to be selected by Cyclingnews readers as Rider of the Year? Make history, it seems. Lance Armstrong has won the title in our reader poll for 2004, after twice finishing runner-up (to Mario Cipollini in 2002 and Tyler Hamilton in 2003). You have high standards but the reasons you gave for choosing Armstrong clearly show that it was his sixth Tour de France victory that clinched the title this year, ahead of Damiano Cunego and Paolo Bettini.
Unsurprisingly, after the achievement of six Tours in a row, you also chose Armstrong as Male Road Rider of the Year and Legend of Cycling, the special title reserved for modern-day riders who deserve to be considered alongside the sport's historical greats. Despite - or perhaps because of - her finishing salute at the Olympics, you voted world champion Judith Arndt as Best Female Road Rider.
Over the last few days we have also announced winners in many other categories. Sven Nys swept all before him in Male Cyclocrosser of the Year, as he has done in the Northern European mud all season, while the most consistent US cyclocross racer of the season, Ann Knapp topped the poll for Best Female Cyclocross Rider.
Also in the dirt, you went with world and Olympic champions Julien Absalon and Gunn Rita Dahle in the categories of Best Male MTB Racer and Best Female MTB Racer respectively. Given the seasons they have had, it'd hard to see any other choices, and Dahle's win in particular was a landslide.
There was a wider range of choices in the equipment categories of Best Product and Best Team Bike, but we think it's no surprise that both winners are used by a certain six-time Tour de France winner.
However, Lance Armstrong doesn't feature in our Photo of the Year, a shot by long-time Cyclingnews stalwart Sirotti that captures the colour and congestion of Liège-Bastogne-Liege.
Damiano Cunego took the prize for Most Improved Rider after coming from almost nowhere to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Lombardy, on the way eliciting amazement at the sheer talent being shown by such a young rider.
The Armstrong Factor was also at work in your choice of Best Stage Race. The Tour de France was the winner once again, by a large margin. While some readers expressed disappointment that it wasn't as tense as the 2003 cliff-hanger, the 2004 Tour had enough exciting sideshows in Thomas Voeckler's battle to retain yellow, the emergence of Ivan Basso and Andreas Kloeden and the crumbling of Jan Ullrich to keep it in top spot for another year.
Paris-Roubaix was once again your choice for Best One-day Race. Whatever the conditions, Paris-Roubaix captures the imagination like no other event, and Magnus Backstedt's victory in 2004 was all the sweeter for being unexpected - "a hero to all of us who will never weigh 150[lb]" as one reader put it.
Turning back to riders, Ryan Bayley's pair of Olympic gold medals, blistering sprint and sheer down-to-earth manner landed him Male Track Rider of the Year. The Best Female Track Rider went to Sarah Ulmer after she spent the year showing every other female trackie how to break pursuit world records.
It's back to Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France for your Favourite Moment of 2004. Stage 17 of the Tour, and Armstrong has attempted to spring team-mate Floyd Landis to the stage win as a thank you for Landis' unrelenting work in the mountains. But Ullrich and Kloeden shut down Landis' bid for victory and Armstrong retaliated to pip Kloeden on the line, proving just who was the strongest on the ascent to Le Grande-Bornand. "No gifts," said Armstrong afterwards. Terrific stuff.
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