Since we're down to final voting in the 2007 Rider of the Year selection, it's a good time to tee up the next postseason award: what was the single greatest day of racing in the 2007 season? Oh, and don't worry, after we name the best team, we're done handing out awards.
As with last year, this selection is limited to single days. Comparing stage races to classics is pointless, even more so with Grand Tours (not to sound like ASO or anything). Not that stages from a stage race should be forgotten, or even removed from their context. I'm just saying, nominate your favorite day of the year and say why. Also, wherever possible, link to a YouTube or other video clip. To wit:
- Tour of Flanders... a tremendous, surprising result, from the two-man break of guys not named Boonen, to the shocking final meters. All as a result of some seriously classy riding by Alessandro Ballan, Leif Hoste, Daniele Bennati and Fabian Cancellara, to name a few. Video here.
- Paris-Roubaix... Stuart O'Grady is one of the sport's beloved characters, and his heroic escape was one for the ages. Not my pick, but then, when you see video like this, you can't leave it off the table.
- Paris-Nice Stage 7... After days of attacks, Alberto Contador finally breaks Davide Rebellin and takes the stage and overall. Just an inspiring ride from a rider whose future suddenly looked bright. Check out the French commemorative rock video.
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege... As disappointing as the action was at the Amstel Gold Race, things got plenty interesting a week later, as Danilo DiLuca forced the action leading up to a truly classic finale. Unfortunately, all the available video is crap.
- Giro d'Italia Stage 4... What's not to love? After a parade around the drop-dead gorgeous Amalfi coast, the Giro kicked into high gear in this early climbing test, with DiLuca slipping away from the peloton in the final km. Nice finish line video here. Of course, this is just an opening line. You could easily nominate stage 11, Piepoli's victory to the Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia, or DiLuca's win in Briancon, or Ricco's win at Tre Cime.
- Dauphine Libere Stage 4... How about Christophe Moreau's win on Mont Ventoux? Or, alternatively, his riveting escape from his rivals to seize control of the overall race lead? I'll take the Ventoux stage first. Obviously the Dauphine as a race doesn't rank that high, but it's worth considering. No video, even in French.
- Le Tour...
- The Prologue: Technically it's not eligible, but if I were to name the most exciting minute or so of the season, it'd be Cancellara's last KM or so in London. Great video from the official coverage.
- Stage 3: The Patron of the time trials shows the peloton a thing or two. A non-sprinter, in the yellow jersey no less, steals the day in dramatic form. If there's one reason Cancellara is running away with the popular vote today, it's this. More great video.
- Stage 7: Linus Gerdemann digs all too deep into that "dark, dark place of suffering," as Chris Horner would say, to win a dramatic opening mountain stage. Other mountain stages: Stage 8, won by the Chicken, was unusually dramatic, with Leipheimer suffering an odd mechanical and David (de la) Arroyo taking down Michael Rogers in the midst of a potentially Earth-shattering escape. Stage 9 featured Soler's wonderful solo and aggressive Discovery teamwork. Contador took Stage 14 in impressive fashion. Too many shady characters kind of muddy the other mountain stages.
- Stage 19: While time trials aren't ineligible like prologues, they're close. So it takes some pretty epic drama to justify a Race of the Year nomination... and that's exactly what we saw here. Three men duking it out over a hard course for the podium spots. We knew who would be on the steps, but which step was entirely in doubt for one pulsating hour of cycling. This Dutch (?) video is as good as any.
- Vuelta Stage 16... a dull Vuelta, seemingly a slow-rolling apology for its rollicking doping past, is momentarily saved by Sammy Sanchez, the annual riveting-downhill entry in the Race of the Year category. Just a thing of beauty, as this video attests.
This is a start. Serve up your own nominees and rationale, with video links if available. One week from now we'll start the final voting. Enjoy!