The retirement of Lance Armstrong in 2005 marked the end of a era in Tour de France history. Who would be the rider that would take over the reins of the seven-time winner?
2006... and the world's greatest bike race proved to be the closest and most unpredictable in 20 years, providing an opportunity for new stars to emerge from the shadows of the legendary American.
The Tour de France has also provided a window of opportunity for the many Australian pro-cyclists plying their trade on the roads of Europe.
Of the five Australian riders who started from Strasbourg - each completed the 3,600 kilometre, three-week journey and all played a major role for their respective teams.
*Robbie McEwen confirmed his place as one of the world's most prolific sprinters after targeting stage wins and the prestigious green jersey.
*Stuart O'Grady's 10th Tour appearance will probably be best remembered as the most painful, after he suffered a cracked vertebra, yet he still bravely managed to reach the Paris finish line.
*Michael Rogers excelled in his role as a senior member of the giant, T-Mobile team. his aim was to successfully push German team-mate Andreas Kloden to possible overall victory.
*Simon Gerrans was the sole Australian in the French-sponsored AG2R team and he also completed the tour with flying colours.
*Cadel Evans was a pre-Tour favourite. His aim was to improve on his 8th place from 2005 and target a place on the winner's podium.
For all its sporting heroics, there is still no annual sporting event bigger than the Tour de France. Since its introduction in 1903, the Tour de France has been filled with romance, culture, history...and the passion for which it is duly famous.