x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tour de France winner Cadel Evans touched by crowd response

The Australian cyclist returns home to a champion's welcome.

MELBOURNE // Cadel Evans, the Tour de France champion, returned to Australia on Thursday for a victory parade after spending "the best part of his life" working for the cycling victory.

The 34 year old fulfilled his lifelong quest by securing the title last month, three decades after Phil Anderson, his pioneering compatriot, paved the way for Australians by becoming the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey.

Evans's win, the first by an Australian, was hailed in Australia as one of the country's finest ever sporting achievements, ranking alongside Rod Laver's tennis exploits and their America's Cup yachting triumph.

"It's always nice to come home and get a hug from your mum," Evans said on his arrival at Melbourne airport.

"I don't know if it's the greatest but it's been something that I've worked hard on for so long.

"I've come very close before, but just for a little bit of bad luck or something, it didn't quite come through. But that makes it so much more worthwhile on a personal level.

"I'm just happy that everyone enjoyed following it and seeing it, and to come out on top finally on the Champs-Elysees - it's the culmination of many, many years of work for a lot of people."

Thousands of fans are expected to greet Evans on Friday in a parade through Melbourne city centre.

His achievement has sparked calls for a bridge to be named after him at Barwon Heads in Victoria state, where he lives, while there are suggestions that a new cycling event could be created in his name.

Evans said he had been blown away by the response from Australians and inundated with messages of support.

"When you ride in the Tour de France you're concentrated on each day and each race and so on. Sometimes you forget that there are 20 million people at home cheering you on," he said.

"It's been so appreciated by everyone. It's an honour and a pleasure."