On July 3, 197 riders set off on a 3,642-kilometre journey from Rotterdam to Paris, via a couple of mountain ranges, some slippery slopes, a few sections of cobbles and a lot of stunning scenery. Over the three weeks, here's what really stood out.
Best move of the Tour: Andy Schleck's attack on his way to winning at Avoriaz was the only time Alberto Contador was properly distanced in the entire race. But the prize goes to Sylvan Chavanel and Jerome Pineau's combined QuickStep pincer attack on the way to Les Rousses - a move which saw Chavanel take the stage and the yellow jersey, and Pineau conserve his polka dots.
Learn how to ride a bike: Euskaltel seemed to be involved with the majority of crashes in the first week of the race, a fact which clearly angered Johan Bruyneel when Lance Armstrong, having already hit the deck twice, was brought to a standstill at the summit of Les Gets after Basque pair Ivan Velasco and Egoi Martinez tumbled trying to take on a musette. But can anyone beat Schleck's misuse of his chain?
Fruitless breakaway artist award: Take your pick from Damiano Cunego, Carlos Sastre, Vasili Kiryienka or Christophe Moreau. In defence of the Frenchman, the 39-year-old did still finish ahead of Messrs Armstrong, Wiggins, Evans, Basso, Cunego and Rogers in the GC.
The Thierry Henry award for Franco-Irish relations: None other than baldy 'climber' John Gadret, who replied with a firm "non" when his AG2R team leader Nicolas Roche asked to swap bikes after suffering a puncture on a key ascent.
The Freud award for best piece of psychology: It has to be Contador for his canny dealing with his foes both old and new. First the Spaniard played Armstrong at his own game by brazenly walking on to the RadioShack bus bearing a gift watch - then he used the 'we're-best-friends' card against Andy Schleck with aplomb.
Most novel use of a wheel: Carlos Barredo with his comical assault on Rui Costa.
Ducks-on-ice dancing award: The subsequent two-way tussle between Costa and his assailant - all arms and little finesse.
Where did that come from?: Ryder Hesjedal's sixth place on the GC. Garmin seem to have a thing at nurturing talent once Christian Vande Velde crashes out.
Get a new job award: The Mavic mechanic who haplessly tried to change Roche's wheel or the cretinous cameraman who knocked Robbie McEwen to the ground at top speed after a sprint finish.
Most embarrassing crash: Johan Van Summeren inexplicably going over the handlebars at the bottom of the start ramp on the time trial in Bordeaux.
Most painful crash: Youngest rider Fabio Felline went down hard before getting T-Boned at high speed as he tried to get back on his feet. The Footon-Servetto rider finished the stage but pulled out of the race the next morning.
Phew, that was lucky: Hitting the deck on the cobbles can end riders' seasons, but Charley Wegelius somehow managed to cushion the blow on stage three by landing in a bush.
Sore bottom award: Lloyd Mondory for having his backside dragged along the tarmac after his bike tangled up with Tyler Farrar at the end of the first stage.
Best nickname: It's a toss-up between Johan van Somersault and Inspector Gadret.
Most apt nickname: The Silent Assassin - Denis Menchov quietly went about his work on his way to a podium finish. Remarkably, the Russian didn't fall off his bike once.
Best BS headline: Another toss-up between 'Vino Killed the RadioShack Star' and 'Yeah but no butt'.
Creepy thing we could have done without: Contador's wink.
Another creepy thing which was slightly disconcerting: Andy's touchy-feely relationship/cosy arrangement with his rival, and dear friend, Alberto. Poker one day, strip poker the next?
Hmm... maybe time to change the rules?: Renowned climber Anthony Charteau being named King of the Mountains. Whatever next - an Italian veteran taking the green jersey?
Might as well place your bets now: On Fabian Cancellara winning both the prologue and the individual time trial in the 2011 Tour. Oh, and Contador winning ahead of Schleck. And Vande Velde crashing out on stage two.
Early discrepancy award: Alessandro Petacchi's Ale-Jet to Mark Cavendish's Ryan Air.
Blame it on BP: The oil spill that brought down most of the field on the descent of the Stockeu in the Ardennes.
Chapeau, didn't think you had it in you: Schleck Junior motoring along the pave alongside Spartacus one day after his double wipe-out in Belgium.
Rob Lowe award for successfully turning things round: Mark Cavendish - throwing a hissy fit one day, being written off the next, and then bouncing back with a tearful victory before adding four more in two weeks.
Salad dressing award for remarkable consistency: Cadel Evans, who completed a trend of wearing the leader's jersey for one day in the last three Grand Tours.
That's how to turn a season around: Sylvain Chavanel - fractured skull one moment, two stage wins and two separate days in yellow the next.
What do they say about bad luck?: Having crashed heavily twice, Armstrong comes a cropper for the third time on the way to Avoriaz. Must have had something else on his mind...
Ugliness - a sight to behold: A grimacing Daniel Navarro and a topless Paolo Tiralongo eating up the mountains with their fellow Astana bullies.
Better luck next time: Team Sky, the richest team on the circuit and still no stage wins - not even a top 10 (or 20) for Bradley Wiggins.
Saving Lance's blushes: It was a miserable farewell Tour for the American, but at least RadioShack won the team award while Sergio Paulinho took a maiden Tour victory for the US outfit.
Very much missing this year: Vladimir Karpets's mullet.
Most annoying advert: Without doubt Tyler Farrar, sprinter of team Garmin-Transitions, going on about his special lenses. Still, it ensured we saw Tyler in action all the way to Paris at least.
The 'part and parcel of sprinting' award: Mark Renshaw, for high-speed head-butts and a blatant attempt to drive a fellow rider into the barriers.
Strength in adversity award: Twenty-four hours after missing out so narrowly in Mende, Vino attacks at just the right moment to win in Revel.
Should really have known better: Andy Schleck, for trying to change gear while out of the saddle, resulting in the infamous 'chaingate'. What's more, you'd think he'd know how to mend his own bike - after all, footballers just about manage to tie their bootlaces.
Biggest lie: Contador claiming not to have seen Schleck's chain slip.
Most incongruous person to visit the Tour: Tom Cruise or Nicolas Sarkozy. Highly apt, though, that the 'film star president' be followed up by his diminutive Hollywood equivalent.
Astonishing 'sacre bleu!' overachievement award: France, for its six stages, five winners and an unlikely mountains jersey (not to mention John Gadret's, er, 19th place on the GC).
Most anonymous rider: Take your pick from Brian Vandborg, Remy Di Gregorio, Wesley Sulzberger, Kevin Seeldrayers, Luke Roberts, Juan Oroz, Mauro Da Dalto - the list goes on...
A big Cav two-fingered salute: To all those who chastised Saddles for predicting Armstrong would struggle to make the top 10. Not so smug now, eh?
Hang your head in shame: Top five for Basso, podium for Kreuziger? What was Saddles thinking?
How could we forget: Jens Voigt's yellow bike with toe clips, the sheep on the road, Robbie McEwen's wheelie atop the misty Tourmalet, Andreas Kloeden's shabby hotel rooms, plus all your contributions below.
Words of the Tour: Wiggone, wijnansing, bouet (boo-hate), HTCP, txurruka'd, ci-oh-leked, barredon't, knees-down, footoned, evansy, kiryienka'd, rensurance, rodriguess, hushedovd, riblong, voecklarity, YouHorn, schlose, hushover'd, schlecond, milrum
Quotes of the Tour: "Why should Cancellara decide? I've been riding all day for the stage win and the green jersey and I end up with nothing. This is not fair. Will the same thing happen tomorrow? Will the times for GC be taken before the pave sections? If a big rider crashes tomorrow on the cobbles, he's entitled to ask for the race to be neutralised too? So when will we race?" Thor Hushovd
"I'd almost sat up, but when I heard that Armstrong had been dropped, I decided to get back to the front of the group with my team-mates." Alexandre Vinokourov
"Renshaw is out. We watched the film once and it was blatant. This is cycling, not fighting." Tour director Jean-Francois Pescheux
''If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room in the morning, I will probably be the primary suspect.'' Nicolas Roche
"Do you want me to be honest? I'm f***ed. I just don't have the form. I'm not going to lie. So I'm trying my hardest and just battling on, rather than give up, but I just haven't got it like last year, it's as simple as that. I don't know why. I just feel consistently mediocre. Not brilliant, not s***, just mediocre. Just sort of plateau." Bradley Wiggins
"Alberto apologised to me and it was big of him. We're good again. End of story. He knows that he shouldn't have done it and that it was a mistake. I can't complain. I could already have lost the Tour in Spa." Andy Schleck
"I'm all for courtesy, but let's get SOME racing in or change it to a 23-day group ride waiting for everybody." Cervelo owner Gerard Vroomen
"It's me who was weaker, it's not him who was better." Alberto Contador
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