Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) became the first Australian to win the Tour de France when the riders conquered the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées in Paris yesterday. Evans finished just ahead of brothers Andy and Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) who were second and third, respectively.
In what many refer to as the “Race of Truth,” Cadel Evans showed that steady wins the race. Evans consistently ranked within reach of the general classification, but waited until two days before the race reached Paris, at the individual time trial in Grenoble, to put in his race-winning effort.
Following back-to-back breakaway Norwegian wins—Thor Hushovd (Garmin Cervelo) on Stage 16 and Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky Procycling) on Stage 17—the race entered the high Alps where the battle for yellow was expected to run away.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) bravely held onto the yellow jersey at the end of Stage 18 on the Col de Galibier, a rocky, bare mountain top finish enshrouded in clouds. Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), however, won the stage with a heroic solo attack up the barren mountain and came within 15 seconds of Voeckler.
The next day, Andy Schleck took yellow on the slopes of the Alpe d’Huez climb after battling Alberto Contador (Saxobank), Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi), and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) won the stage, becoming the first French rider to win on the Alpe d’Huez since 1986.
Although Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was in yellow at the end of the day, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was the big winner: the Australian reeled himself into third place, one minute behind Andy and within four seconds of Frank Schleck who held second place overall.
Evans found himself with the upper hand on the eve of the time trial in Grenoble, a disciple in which Evans, a former mountain biker, is a known threat. Brothers Frank and Andy, known for their prowess in the mountains, have struggled with time trials.
From the outset of the time trial in Grenoble, a race in which riders take on the course at staggered intervals, Cadel Evans was a man on a mission. The Australian raced the time trial of his life, scorching the course in a time almost two and a half minutes faster than Andy Schleck to win the yellow jersey on the last day of racing.
With Evans in yellow, Mark Cavendish (HTC Highroad) took the stage win in Paris and the Tour’s Green Jersey for points leader. The final stage in Paris saw the familiar sight of the HTC leadout train launching Cavendish across the finish line ahead of second place finisher Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky Procycling) and third place’s Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) took the Tour’s White Jersey for best young rider. In his domestique role for Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) this year, Rolland performed above and beyond expectations.
The 2008 Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) of Spain won the polka dot jersey for best climber in this year’s Tour. Sanchez, who came in 6th overall this year just behind fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador (Saxobank), also won a stage of this year’s Tour, the mountain top finish at Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees.
The highest placed American this year was first time Tour de France rider Tom Danielson. Danielson’s 9th place finish overall in the Tour capped off three weeks of great results for team Garmin Cervelo. In Paris, Tyler Farrar (Garmin Cervelo) placed 4th on the day, another great showing among the American riders.
After three weeks of blood, sweat, and gears of the 2011 Tour de France, the riders will focus on their national championship races and training again for next year’s grand tour.
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By Thomas Samph
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