Evans Wins Tour; Cavendish Takes Stage 21
Cadel Evans (BMC) is the first Australian to win the Tour de France.
Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing) is the first Australian to win the Tour de France. Evans became the 2011 Tour champion moments after Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) took a bunch sprint to win Stage 21, a flat, 95-km run from Creteil to Paris, in 2:27:02. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) took second and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) finished third.
The day began on a somber note. A moment of silence memorialized the victims of Friday's bombings in Norway. In addition, a tribute was paid to Laurent Fignon, who died in August 2010. As a amateur, Fignon raced for the US Creteil club, and before the stage a plaque honoring the two-time Tour winner was unveiled in front of his family and former teammates.
When the riders set out, the early part of the stage was what the early part of the final stage to Paris always is--relaxed. Evans and his teammates posed for a picture, and Evans and Andy and Frank Schleck (both from Leopard-Trek), who finished second and third, respectively, posed for photos. Many of Evans's colleagues congratulated him.
The relaxation ended when the field hit the Champs Elysees. With 40 km left, Ben Swift (Sky) leapt out of the peloton, and Kristjan Koren (Liquigas-Cannondale), Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) followed the Briton. With 30 km left, the quintet led the field by 0:42.
Garmin-Cervelo led the chase. With 25 km left, Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) crashed. BMC and Omega Pharma-Lotto joined Garmin-Cervelo at the front. With 15 km left, the escapees led the field by 0:30.
Lampre-ISD added its muscle to the pursuit. With six km remaining, the break led the bunch by 0:20. Lampre-ISD, Quick Step, and HTC-Highroad led the pursuit. With three km left, the peloton absorbed the break.
HTC-Highroad assumed command. A number of attacks were made, including one by Barredo, but the American squad was having none of it. With 200 m to go, Cavendish cut loose, and no one had an answer. The Manxman took the stage and the green jersey, the last one up for grabs.
Despite Cavendish's heroics, the day belonged, as it should have, to Evans. He has said that he was inspired by seeing Miguel Indurain win the Tour de France in 1991. Watching the Spaniard win the first of five Tours "planted a seed in my head," Evans said. "That seed grew and grew. I had to go through some difficult moments and was really unlucky to finish second for two years. But that has made now even more special."
Evans's misfortunes caused some to question whether the Australian had the psychological makeup to be a Tour de France champion. The BMC man, however, said that he never doubted himself. "A few people always believed in me," he said. "I believed in me. And here we are today. We did it."
Among those who believed in Evans was Aldo Sassi, the Italian trainer who coached Evans, Ivan Basso, and other cyclists. Sassi died in December 2010. After Evans won the world championship in 2009, Sassi said to