(Photos: Yuzuru Sunada)
Cadel Evans sealed an historic first Tour de France victory for his native Australia after the 21st and final stage of the epic race on Sunday.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish, of HTC-Highroad, took his third consecutive stage win on the Champs Elysees where Evans, who rides for BMC, maintained his lead of 1min 34sec over Andy Schleck of Luxembourg who rides for Leopard. In third place was Frank Schleck, 31, who finished 2:30 behind.
Cavendish has now won five stages this year, taking his tally to 20. His third consecutive stage victory on the final stage of the race means he becomes the first Briton to secure the green jersey for the race’s points competition. Isle of Man rider Cavendish will therefore be the first Briton to step on to the podium since 1984 when Scotland’s Robert Millar took the King of the Mountains jersey on his way to a fourth place finish.
Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, of the Euskaltel team, won this year’s polka dot jersey while Frenchman Pierre Rolland, of Europcar, won the white jersey for the best placed rider aged 25 and under.
Evans had already been Australia’s most successful rider on the world’s premier cycling event thanks to two runner-up places in 2007 and 2008. Two years after becoming Australia’s first ever world road race champion, Evans made history in convincing fashion a day after dispossessing Schleck of he yellow jersey after the 20th and penultimate stage time trial.
Schleck held a 57sec lead on Evans following the final mountain stage to Alpe d’Huez, won by Rolland, on Friday and was confident of taking the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. However the Luxemburger, known as a climbing specialist, fell victim to his comparatively inferior time trialling skills on the challenging 42.5 km course around Grenoble on Saturday.
Evans slashed his deficit to just 36sec by the 15 km mark of the individual race against the clock, and by the halfway point he had become virtual leader. In the end the Australian beat Schleck by 2:30, dropping the Luxemburger to
second by 1:34.
Schleck, who had won the white jersey from 2008-2010, has now come runner-up for the third consecutive year having finished second to Alberto Contador in 2009 and 2010.
Contador, the three-time reigning champion, endured a disappointing race before finishing fifth overall at 3:57 adrift of Evans and one place behind France’s Thomas Voeckler, fourth at 3:20.