Aside from Lance Armstrong's record-equalling antics last year, Tyler Hamilton was the star of the race, triumphing over adversity for fourth.
Best Tour: Fourth - 2003
Hamilton was one of the greatest casualties of the horror crash at the end of stage one in 2003.
X-rays revealed a double fracture of the collarbone, prompting the American to announce his immediate withdrawal.
But he stunned everyone by deciding to ride on, although his retirement seemed inevitable.
He continued to surprise, going so far as to make Armstrong look second best in the early mountain stages before clinching a famous win on stage 16.
Hamilton's efforts have made him arguably the bravest rider in Tour history.
Since then he has switched team allegiance, opting to join Phonak as their new team boss rather than stay at CSC, and the switch looks to have done very little to dent his Tour chances.
As in 2003, he clinched victory in the Tour of Romandy, but he did take time to initially settle in with his new team-mates.
At the early season Paris-Nice, he managed just 38th place in a slightly rusty performance, before improving to 12th in the Criterium International, a race in which countryman Armstrong finished third, and then coming ninth in the Liege-Bastogne Liege.
Arguably his best race of the season, however, was the Dauphine Libere, where he finished second to Iban Mayo but ahead of Armstrong.
If he remains injury free, Hamilton argues he has the knowledge and ability to win the overall race and become the third American winner, after Greg Lemond and Armstrong.
His background backs that up, having been Armstrong's most trusted lieutenant before leaving the US Postal to focus on being a team leader in his own right.
He has already warned he will use his past experience to upset Armstrong throughout July.
He told BBC Sport: "Riding with a champion as incredible as Lance is always going to rub off on you. I saw how he worked as a leader and his decision-making.
"I've picked up a lot of things from him and hopefully they'll come back to haunt him one day."