Tom Boonen did the World Champion's jersey proud this year with a series of spectacular early season wins including the Tour of Flanders, a repeat from 2005. His teammate, Paulo Bettini, rode powerfully all year and came on particularly strong at the end of the season by winning the World Champion's road jersey and following up with the Tour of Lombardy. And Floyd Landis had a magnificent season logging wins at the Tour of California, Paris Nice, the Tour of Georgia and the Tour de France. Were it not for his tarnished Tour de France performance, Floyd would probably have received the nod for the 2006 Cyclist of the Year.
In my view, however, Carlos Sastre of Team CSC wins the prize for the 2006 Cyclist of the Year. Sastre road all three Grand Tours this year. He helped Basso win the Giro d'Italia by setting a blistering pace in the mountains, finishing in 43rd place. With Basso evicted from the Tour unexpectedly, Sastre became the de factor team leader for the Tour de France. He did his team proud by finishing 4th overall in the GC. And if that was not enough, he went on to race the Vuelta a Espagna, his third gruelling 3-week stage race of the season. He just missed the podium with another 4th place finish.
Sastre's consistent results in all three Grand Tours, his selfless effort to work for a team beset by difficulty and his mental and physical toughness to compete, finish and perform well in all three Grand Tours make Sastre my choice for the 2006 Pro Cyclist of the Year.