x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tour de France winner Evans realises a 20-year dream

He becomes the first Australian to clinch title as Andy Schleck, of Luxembourg, finishes second for third year in a row.

Cadel Evans, centre, turns the corner at L’arc de Triomphe during the 21st and final stage of Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.
Cadel Evans, centre, turns the corner at L’arc de Triomphe during the 21st and final stage of Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.

Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France after Mark Cavendish, the British rider, took Sunday's final stage on the Champs Elysees for the third year in a row.

The 34-year-old Evans, the oldest Tour winner since Second World War, showed resilience throughout as he broke three-time champion Alberto Contador's unbeaten run in a grand tour since 2007.

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck was second overall for the third year in succession, 1:34 behind Evans, who claimed his maiden grand tour title.

"Thank you to everyone who supported me, my teammates, my rivals, everyone for this incredible experience," said Evans, who won one stage during the race, after stepping on the podium on the Champs Elysees. "Thank you for that fantastic race. It was a wonderful experience. I couldn't be happier. I had been thinking about this for 20 years."

Frank Schleck was third, 2:30 off the pace as two brothers climbed on the final Tour de France podium for the first time. "Cadel deserved to win. Second place in the Tour is not nothing and being with my brother on the podium is a family's dream. Our parents are proud of us," said Andy Schleck.

Evans's victory also broke Spanish domination of the race after Alberto Contador (2007, 2009, 2010), Oscar Pereiro (2006) and Carlos Sastre (2008) had claimed five titles in a row.

The Australian only took the overall leader's yellow jersey after Saturday's final time trial in which he humbled Andy Schleck by 2:31, easily overcoming a 57-second deficit. Cavendish was also made to wait to finally claim the green jersey for the points classification after starting the day with a 15-point advantage over Spain's Jose Roaquin Rojas.

Cavendish is now the most successful sprinter of all time in the Tour but is also ranked sixth in terms of stages victories, level with 1927 and 1928 champion Nicolas Frantz of Luxembourg. The stage started at a leisurely pace as the traditional final parade set off for a 95-kilometre ride from Creteil, where a tribute was paid to Laurent Fignon, the two-time champion, who died of cancer last year.

Tension rose when the peloton reached Paris, with six riders powering away from the pack to snatch their share of the limelight on the Champs Elysees.

Jeremy Roy, Kristijan Koren, Lars Bak, Sergio Paulinho, Christophe Riblon and Ben Swift built a 39-second gap but they were reeled in about four kilometres from the finish as the sprinters' teams swapped at the front of the bunch.

The HTC-Highroad team set their usual lead-out train for Cavendish, who duly delivered to snatch his 20th Tour de France stage win.

The Briton beat Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen and German Andre Greipel, who were second and third respectively.

"Finally! I'm super happy, it did not come easy," said the Manxman, who had narrowly missed the points classification winner's jersey in the two previous years.

"The rules had changed this year, I had to work even harder. I was tired but my teammates keep working hard and we won all together. I was close the previous years now the goal is achieved. I'm so moved. It's an incredible day today," he added.

Since the Tour has been unfolding on the most famous Parisian avenue in 1975, no rider had won the traditional bunch sprint near the Place de la Concorde more than twice.

The last man to have won three final stages in succession was Belgian Eddy Merckx, the most successful cyclist ever, in 1972 when the finale was held on the Cipale track in Vincennes.

Meanwhile, Garmin-Cervelo, who won the team time trial and stages through American Tyler Farrar and Norwegian Thor Hushov, won the team standings.

Pierre Rolland, the Frenchman, who won the prestigious stage to l'Alpe d'Huez, claimed the white jersey for the best under-25 rider while Spaniard Samuel Sanchez won the polka-dot jersey for the best climber.