Tour de France winner: Cadel Evans's often-sullen ride to historic victory
Cadel Evans's victory marks the first time an Australian has won the Tour. Until now, Evans, a runner-up in 2007 and 2008, was known as one of the Tour's prickliest riders.
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Evans's cautious tactics almost backfired, though. He initially neglected to follow Andy Schleck’s breakaway up the Col du Galibier on Thursday’s Stage 18, before scrambling to catch up and stay in the race.Skip to next paragraph
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The next day’s stage, which took riders up the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb, Evans suffered a mechanical problem, but recovered to finish the day 57 seconds behind Schleck, who moved into the yellow jersey.
Schleck lasted just one day in the lead. During Saturday’s 26-mile individual time trial around Grenoble, Evans – considered a stronger rider than Schleck in the discipline – more than erased his time deficit.
Speeding along the course, Evans finished the day with a 1 minute and a half lead on Schleck. Receiving his yellow jersey on the podium afterward, Evans threw a bouquet of flowers into the crowd like an excited bride.
“I can’t quite believe it,” he said yesterday. “I’ve concentrated on winning this Tour for so long.”
String of misfortune
A former champion mountain biker, Evans turned his attention to road bikes in 2001.
He raced his first Tour de France in 2005 and two years later, finished runner-up to champion Alberto Contador. But misfortune followed. He wore the yellow jersey in 2008, only to lose it down the stretch to Spain’s Carlos Sastre.
Last year, with a new team, he took the race lead on Stage 8 but fractured his right elbow in the process.
Racked with pain, Evans lost his lead the following day. “I'm pretty sure it's all over for this year,” he said at the time. “I’m sorry to have let [my team] down.
Evans escaped serious injury in the myriad crashes that marred the beginning of this year’s race, which wound through the narrow, twisting roads of Brittany.
Some podium hopefuls, including American Chris Horner of Radio Shack, were forced to abandon the race after crashing.
Stage 9, in the Massif Central mountain range, brought the Tour’s worst carnage. Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov fractured his femur during a slippery descent early in the stage; later that day, a French television car clipped the bike of Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha. He fell to the ground and, in the process, knocked Holland’s Johnny Hoogerland into a barbed wire fence.
In years past, Evans has bemoaned his Tour de France finishes; this time, his rivals are left wondering what could have been. Perhaps no one is more disappointed than Andy Schleck, who has finished runner-up three straight years.
Having dispatched his nemesis Alberto Contador on Thursday’s Stage 18, Schleck felt confident about his chances to win.