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Rider of the Year -- The Final Decision

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[editor's note, by chris] Reposted, just to make sure you all vote.

At last, it's time for a final decision. The finalists are discussed in detail below, and please take the poll to your right. As I've said, the popular vote might not be the only consideration, and I welcome more testimonials here, but since we've developed a short list, the vote tally will weigh heavily. Voting closes Nov. 1.

And the nominees are...

Tom Boonen

A grand total of 21 wins and a few days that exist primarily in the imagination of Belgians: wearing yellow as the Tour passed through his homeland, and winning the Ronde in the rainbow jersey.

Paolo Bettini

Will he split the Quick Step vote? Perhaps, but although Bettini is a late entrant with only nine wins, the National title -- World title - Lombardia triple makes for more than just a horrible helmet; it's a great season too.

Floyd Landis

The standard-bearer for the presumed dopers, Landis blots out the candidacies of Basso and Ullrich and others, having seemingly won the Tours of California, Georgia and France (plus Paris-Nice) with exploits and physical conditions that sound like a cheesy Disney flick. If he were only innocent, he'd be a front-runner...

Alexandre Vinokourov

The only Grand Tour winner not immediately clouded in suspicion, if you overlook his DS getting nabbed with a trunkload of cash and blood. Still, nobody thinks he did anything, and he won the Vuelta with real class.

Update [2006-10-16 19:40:2 by chris]: Only 10 names can fit on the poll, and we've had 11 solid nominees. I dropped Vino from the poll because as far as I can tell, nobody has said they would vote for him. But if that's wrong, drop a comment here. Either way, I'm confident he wasn't going to win... but that's exactly the time when Vino thrives. [ahem]

Alejandro Valverde

Your Pro Tour winner, and perhaps the last one for a while to score points in classics and grand tours, if the ASOs have their way. Valverde rode a lot, won twice in April, and nearly took his own national Tour.

Fabian Cancellara

A classic breakout season, storming the field at the year's best race (Paris-Roubaix), plus the overall Denmark Tour, world time trial championship (by a huge margin), and 8 total wins. If you want to vote for a time trialist, Cance is your man.

Jens Voigt

Entry #1 in the good-grunt category, except that he was so much more so on home soil, storming to the Deutschland Tour overall with two improbable stage wins. Guts, and now flair too. Quite possibly the most popular rider among our community, and not just because you can get him on your VDS team for a mere three points.

Carlos Sastre

Good-grunt #2... and then some. I've gone into excruciating detail as to his even more excruciating exploits. Three grand tours, first in support of the Giro winner, then the sudden leader in the Tour (4th) and the planned leader in the Vuelta (4th again). Both of his near-podiums were one time-trial performance away from at least one step. If dedication and sacrifice are your criteria, he's the man. And as Riis says in Overcoming, people have no idea how good this guy is.

Erik Zabel

26 times on a race podium this year, including securing his 200th career win. Second at the worlds. Good from start to finish, like he is every year.

Thor Hushovd

The most decorated pure sprinter of the year, pulling the Vuelta and Paris-Nice points titles, a Classic win at Gent-Wevelgem, stages in the Vuelta and Tour (including the TdF rarity, winning the first and last stages), and a total of 8 wins. Robbie Mac fans won't like this, but Thor's got a classics title and yellow and gold jerseys in his closet now.

Sammy Sanchez

The revelation... sort of the Cancellara of the hills. Winner at Zurich and a Vuelta stage, plus second in Lombardy, Fleche Wallone, and the overall Pro Tour standings, and fourth in the World Championships. His future is freaking huge.