Evans and Cavendish - the yellow and green jerseys - Aussie and Brit take the Tour de France
We watched some of the Tour in a French bar, and suffice it to say, they were booing Evans there. But who could resist paying tribute to his spirit today?
"Grit powers old man Cadel Evans to the summit. . ."
The first Australian winner of the Tour, who had lost two previous Tours by a minute and who looked to have lost this Tour as well, pulled out all the stops in an incredible tour de force.
Twenty‑four hours earlier, Evans had distinguished himself as the only rider willing to respond to the attack made by Schleck on the crossing of the Col d'Izoard. Ascending the final climb of the day, on the Galibier, the Australian repeatedly gestured his frustration as the other leading contenders – Contador, Ivan Basso, Samuel Sánchez and Damiano Cunego – refused to join in. So with 10km to go, and Schleck more than four minutes ahead, he went for broke, grinding it out all the way to the line and halving the Luxembourg rider's lead, while also denying him the yellow jersey by a margin of 15 seconds.
That was the counterattack which won the Tour, but the following afternoon, as they approached the Alpe d'Huez, it looked as though the effort might have taken too much out of Evans's formidable reserves of energy. Somehow he recovered and was once again on the counterattack in the last couple of kilometres, finishing with Schleck and ensuring that Contador, up ahead in the leading group of three, could not make significant inroads. Another day later, in the time trial on Saturday, he burned up the hilly course around Grenoble to such effect that he finished only seven seconds behind Tony Martin, a specialist against the clock, with the nearest challenger – Contador – a whisker short of a minute away.
Evans, halfway though his 35th year, is the oldest Tour winner since the war, superseding Gino Bartali, the great Italian champion, whose two victories straddled the conflict and who was 34 years and one week old at the time of his second success in 1948. . .
Mark Cavendish "made himself the first British rider in the history of the race to capture the green jersey, given to the winner of the classification based on points awarded for the intermediate and final sprints".
If no tiresome descents into doping were made, an exhausting sport will have ended happily this year.