With the conclusion of one of the most eventful installments of the Tour in years this Sunday, let's take a look back at what was.
From the epic return of cycling legend Lance Armstrong to the total domination of Mark Cavendish,here is the 96th Tour de France, in pictures. In this slide show, all 21 stages are covered along with a few extra pictures from the 2009 Tour de France
As expected, Fabian Cancellara takes the yellow jersey and holds it for 6 days. Here he is pictured riding in the Stage 1 TT at Monaco, a stage in which he won.
The fastest man on two legs won both Stage 2 and Stage 3 to start of his winning campaign which eventually ended in six stage wins. With his victories he gained the green jersey which he ultimately lost to Norwegian Thor Hushovd.
In the picture, Mark Cavendish wins Stage three of the 2009 Tour de France
Astana won the first team TT to take place in the Tour since 2005. They beat undermanned Garmin-Slipstream by 18 seconds. Tour winner Alberto Conatador can be seen in his yellow and red Spanish Nat'l Time Trailing Champion's jersey.
In the picture, Astana drives in a long train during the team TT.
Long time Tour staple Thomas Voeckler finally wins his first ever stage. After being part of the main breakaway group Voeckler went for the stage victory with 5km to go. The Frenchmen's gamble paid off as he crossed the line first.
In this picture, Thomas Voeckler celebrates his stage win.
After catching David Miller who had been in front all stage with just 1 Km to the finish Thor Hushovd sprinted past the pelaton towards his first stage win in the 2009 Tour. A suprise considering the finish was on a slight incline, prompting some to believe the climbers and GC contenders would battle it out for Stage victory.
In this picture, Thor Hushovd celebrates on the podium after his stage win.
Although Brice Feillu won the stage, it was Rinaldo Nocentini's day. The Italian took the yellow jersey off of the hands of Cancellara and would wear it for seven more stages. This Pyrenees stage saw the highest finish of the 2009 Tour and was conducted strictly on Spanish soil.
In this picture, Rinaldo Nocentini tries on yellow for the first time.
The Spianard out-sprinted Sandy Casar to the line with the second of three consecutive days in the Pyrenees. There was no change within the standings or any real attacks by riders within the GC, although Nocentini did make up a 30 second gap between him and a group of his main competition on the final climb.
In this picture, Luis León Sánchez celebrates his stage win.
Fédrigo and eventual King Of The Mountians winner Franco Pellizotti battled it out on Stage nine which included two classified climbs. The GC stayed the same.
In this picture, Pierrick Fédrigo is seen climbing from above during Stage 9 of the Tour.
Riders got a chance to rest their legs after three grueling days in the Pyrenees. As seen here, many riders got a chance to catch up on their reading or go out for a nice ride to view the French country-side.
In this picture, Alberto Contador reads the newpaper.
On a 193 km flat stage that favored sprinters, Cavendish beat out riders by the likes of Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar to win the stage on Bastille Day. Once again this victory was preluded by the Team Columbia lead out Cavendish trained for.
In this picture, Mark Cavendish focuses on the finish line ahead of Thor Hushovd.
Cavendish once again dominated the sprint and reached the line before Tyler Farrar. He also took the green back from Hushovd.
In this picture, Mark Cavendish is presented the Green Jersey.
Sorensen joined the lead group with 54 km to go. The group stayed out of the grasp of the pelaton as the star sprinting teams made no effort to drive to catch the leaders. With about 22 km to go, Sorenson launched an attack that was followed only by Agritubel Team rider Sylvain Calzati.
Sorenson launched another attack at 5.5 km to that dropped Calzati and gave him the stage victory.
In this picture, the pelaton climbs a hill lined with spectators.
Heinrich Haussler won stage 13, which was classified as a medium-mountian stage that included 5 climbs. Thor Hushovd reclaimed the green jersey after going out and claiming small sprint points. Franco Pellizotti also earned himself a jersey after he took three climbs to recieve the KOTM kit.
In this picture, Heinrich Haussler reacts to his stage 13 victory.
This was actually one of the most eventful stages in the Tour. Russian Sergei Ivanov won the stage after attacked from the lead group with 11 km to go and could not be caught even after several disperate chases by the group.
George Hincapie came across the line with what looked like enough of a time gap to end the day in the yellow jersey, but Garmin-Slipstream and Astana drove hard on the front which eliminated George's chances at the lead in the GC.
Both teams acts were very controversial and there were rumblings that Garmin did it due to the fact that George is on rival Team Columbia.
Also, Mark Cavendish was penalized for a move on Thor Hushovd where he allegedly forced the Green Jersey Points leader into the guardrail. He had 14 points deducted from his Green Jersey total, which in the end proved the difference in the battle for Green between Cavendish and Hushovd.
A 61 year-old woman was killed by a police motor bike while crossing the road after the lead group passed. This was the first spectator death since 2002. Two other spectators where injured as well, but survived.
In this picture, Thor Hushovd confronts Mark Cavendish about his move at the finish line that eventually cost Cavendsih 14 Green Jersey points.
As the Tour reached the Alps, Contador made his first bold move to grab the yellow jersey. He attacked the main group on the final climb of the day. Only Andy Schleck followed but couldn't manage to catch up to El Pistolero, who went on to reach the summit first. Contador held the jersey by 1:37 over teammate Lance Armstrong heading into stage 16.
In this picture, Alberto Contador makes a signature pistol motion after he crosses the line first to win stage 16 and take yellow.
After a tough day in the Alps, the tour took a day to relax. In this picture Team Astana takes a couple hours in the saddle to get some exercise and stay fresh for the next day's stage.
Besides the 2003 Tour Down Under, Astraloza hadn't won a Pro Bike Race in his career. He added another when he was the first to cross during the Alpine stage. He broke away from the lead group with two kilomers and wasn't caught.
Andy Schleck attacked on the final climb, but he was caught by the other main challengers leaving him without a chance to make any impression within the GC. Lance Armstrong had a strong showing where he rode up to the main group after being caught off-guard by the Schleck acceleration.
In this picture, Mikel Astarloza celebrates a hard earned stage victory.
In the beginning of this important stage, Green Jersey leader Thor Hushovd went out ahead of everyone for 80 km and collected all of the sprint points to increase his lead in that category over Mark Cavendish.
In an attempt to gain insurance for the next day's time trial the Schleck brother lead an attack on the final of five climbs. The attack dropped everyone in the main GC group besides Contador and his teammate Andreas Klöden.
The Schlecks tried to shake the Spainaird with multiple attacks but couldn't shake Contador or Klöden. Contador then tried an attack which caught his teammate Klöden by surprise and actually dropped him leaving Contador by himself to fend of the Schlecks.
The trio went over the summit together and descended down to the finish where Contador allowed Frank Schleck to take the stage, much to the excitement of his brother Andy.
Everyone except Andy and Frank Schleck lost time in the GC, which brought Contador criticism from the media for his attack that dropped his own teammate and left him at the mercy of the Schleck brothers.
In this picture, the Schleck brothers celebrate a stage win as Alberto Contador crosses the line with them.
After leaving the Alps for a Stage 18 time trial it looked as though the tour was up for the taking.
Alberto Contador rode the TT of his life, showing the world why he was the Spanish TT Champion. He beat the best TT in the world Fabian Cancellara by three seconds to win the stage, and increase his grasp of the yellow to over four minutes on the second place rider in the GC. (Andy Schleck)
Lance Armstrong moved into third place after the TT and Frank Schleck dropped from third place in the GC to sixth.
Although Contador displayed why he was the best all-around rider in the tour, his yellow wasn't guaranteed with the Tour pen=ultimate stage looming which included the well known monster of a climb Mont Ventoux.
In this picture, GC leader Alberto Contador concentrates on riding his TT while riding past Lake Annecy.
With a category two climb just 16 km from the finish, many within the stage thought that a breakaway would end up winning the stage. As it turned out Mark Cavendish had another trick up his sleeve as he and the Team Columbia leadout train suffered up the climb and then pushed to allow Cav the stage win. Cavendish had to sprint a little longer than he usually has too, as Team Columbia simpily ran out of leadout riders leaving Cavendish to fend for himself.
He beat out the Green Jersey of Thor Hushovd to win his 5th stage of the tour making him the first to do so since Lance Armstrong did it back in 2004.
In this picture, Mark Cavendish celebrates a stage win after a mad sprint to the finish.
For the first time in Tour de France history, the pen-ultimate day was a mountainstage. Juan Manuel Gárate won the stage after he an David Miller rode in a two man breakaway for the latter part of the stage and all of the final climb up the Mt. Ventoux. Past Spanish cycling champion Gárate sprinted near the finish and Miller could not respond with an accleration of his own. For Gárate it was a great accomplishment to win on one of the most notorious climbs in Pro Cycling and to do it on the penultimate day of the tour was just icing on the cake.
Andy Schleck attacked over and over on the climb but could not distance himself from Contador, he also tried many times to launch attacks for his brother Frank in hopes of placing him in the 3rd spot of the GC but Frank just didn't have the legs to do anything significant.
At the finish the top 3 riders in the GC, Contador, Andy Schleck, and Lance Armstrong, all finished together. Alberto Contador kept his 4:11 of Andy to hold onto the Yellow Jersey and make him the 2009 Tour Champion due to the fact that Stage 21 is more of a celebration and mass sprint then a stage to gain any significant amount of time in.
In the picture, David Miller is seen suffering up the Ventoux as he watches Gárate win the stage.
In the final stage of the Tour, Mark Renshaw had a fantastic solo leadout of teammate Mark Cavendish allowing the fastest man on two wheels to take one of the most prestigious sprinting stage's in pro cycling.
Renshaw placed second after he along with George Hincapie lead a jolting lead out that caught Team Garmin-Slipstream by surprise and gave Renshaw a clear path to the finish line. Cavendish then sprinted by himself to the stage win, his 6th of the tour and his 10th in the past two tours.
Alberto Contador won the Yellow Jersey making him the Overall Winner of the Tour, Andy Schleck won the Best Young Rider of the Tour for the second time in a row, Thor Hushovd won the Green Jersey for the second time in his career, and Franco Pellizotti won the King Of The Mountains Polka-Dot Jersey.
In all it was an excellent tour that supplied cycling fans with valiant efforts from not only the Tours' top cyclists but also cyclists who's goal was to just win a stage. These three weeks in July won't be forgotten for a very long time, and next years tour is already looking very intruging with a couple new teams joining. Including Lance Armstrong's new Team Radioshack.
The next Grand Tour is the Vuelta a España, where Alberto Contador will defend his Gold Jersey.
In this picture, Mark Cavedish displays how many Stage wins he has in the 2009 Tour de France.
Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck embrace during the 21st Stage of the tour de France
Alberto Contador waves the flag of Spain during a victory lap down the Champs-Élysées
The pelaton moves past a group of spectators