Cadel Evans wins the Tour de France

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After winning the Tour de France this year, Australian Cadel Evans made it a point to pay tribute to Aldo Sassi, his coach who died succumbing to brain cancer last December, who inspired this victory.

His win was the first by an Australian in the history of the great race, and he attributes it to the belief that the late Sassi had in him.

Sassi reportedly assured him that the coach was sure he could win the Grand Tour, adding that he hoped it would be the Tour de France, as it was the biggest as well as the most prestigious of all the tours.

Evans shared that Sassi had described winning the Tour de France as making him the “most complete rider” of his generation.

All throughout his tribute, Evans could not hold back his tears as he remembered the words of his mentor.

“[It] would’ve been quite something,” Evans said, if Sassi had been able to see him this day. After all, it had been Sassi who believed in him all the way from October 2001. Sassi had also never doubted him despite his awkward moments.

The tour spanned all 3430 km and started on July 2. It had been incredibly close, with the results coming in only at the 42.5 kilometer trial begun and ended in Grenoble.

At the start of the first climb, Evans had grabbed 14 seconds off of overall leader Andy Schleck’s time. By the time they sped past the first checkpoint, 15km into the race, Evans had cut off 21 seconds from Schleck’s overall time. He steadily increased his lead to 52 seconds ahead by the time he rode past the Saint-Martin-d’Uriage checkpoint, at 27.5km into the race. Meanwhile, Schleck was noticeably having trouble on the hills at Grenoble.

At 7km left in the race, Evans stood at two seconds behind Tony Martin of Germany. He finished seven seconds behind the German, while Alberto Contador, the former champion of the tour, finished third.

Schleck was quoted as saying, “I’m quite disappointed… but I’m still only 26.” He indicated being sure he would be back to win the tour, and proceeded to commend Evans.

Evans is the first cyclist from Australia to win in the Tour de France in its history of 108 years; it has been nearly a full century after the first Australian participated in the race, Brian Kirkham, who rode in the international match in 1914.

Fans joke that all they need now is for a public holiday to be declared by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Evans quipped, “If it doesn’t hurt the economy!”

Despite his having been the $1.45 favourite among the bookmarkers, his past failures back in 2007 and 2008 must have reared their ugly heads: in 2007, he had tried to overtake Spaniard Alberto Contador but fell short by 23 seconds; in 2008, Spaniard Carlos Sastre was given a 1min 34sec advantage, but Evans failed to overtake him, managing to cut off only 21 seconds off his time.

Of course, things are way different now, as his home nation exploded in celebration.

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