CADEL Evans, Australia’s first Tour de France winner, has told of an emotional 20-year journey to the pinnacle of world sport.
“I did what I had to do,” said Evans ahead of his ride into Paris where being crowned the victor after 10 years of heartbreak and near misses awaited.
Over the past two weeks, Evans has withstood every challenge, and along the way has silenced his critics and beaten his many demons.
“I can’t quite believe it,” Katherine product Evans said. “I rode the best time trial I could. I had the legs to do it.
“Maybe I did not have the legs to do it in years gone by.
“I did not have any choice and I did what I had to do.”
As the Australian champion rode into Paris on the final stage of the tour, there were chaotic scenes right along the Champs Elysees as he slowly made his way down with his BMC Team Racing teammates and thanked hundreds of delirious Australian supporters.
He thanked the Schleck brothers, who finished 2nd and 3rd.
“Thanks to these two brothers here,” Evans said. “It was a fantastic race for everyone involved. I couldnt be happier than to be standing right here n the middle here.”
Wearing the coverted yellow jersey as he was presented as the winner of the Tour de France; Evans – along with many Australians in the crowd were thrilled when Tina Arena appeared to perform the national anthem.
Paris based Arena said she woke up and knew straight away that she should sing the national anthem on the Champs Elysees to commemorate what is being touted as Australias greatest individual sporting achievement.
The two-time runner-up in the world’s greatest race was hailed before hundreds of thousands of adoring fans along the streets of Paris and millions more in front of televisions around the world.
After crunching Andy Schleck in Saturday night’s 42.5km time trial to claim the yellow jersey, Evans used his lengthy post-race press conference to take aim at the critics who had written him off – especially after he had failed to win in 2008 when he was favourite.
“It’s been 20 years since I watched my first Tour de France and saw Miguel Indurain win,” Evans said.
“In all that time, a lot of people have believed – well, not as many people have believed in me as you might think.
“A few key people have backed me when everyone doubted me and no one wanted to know me in August 2008 (after finishing runner-up in the tour).”
Evans’ efforts were hailed far and wide yesterday, from the Prime Minister down to young cycling fans across Australia. Former Aussie cycling champion Phil Anderson was one of many to applaud Evans’ remarkable win.
“For this to be front-page news, compared to the days from when I was riding, is huge. This will certainly take (the sport) ahead in big steps.”
Seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong arrived in Grenoble in time to watch Evans turn a 57-second deficit into a 1min 34sec lead in the heart of the French Alps.
“Congratulations to Cadel Evans. thatwasademonstration,” Armstrong tweated.
Evans pushed himself to the limit in the time trial, coming desperately close to crashing on a couple of occasions on downhill sections before blowing away the Schleck brothers.
Such was the Australian’s pace that his BMC bosses ordered him to slow down in the final few kilometres.
Source : www.ntnews.com.au