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Cadel Evans - 2011 Tour de France champion
Jul 25th, 11. "To get here safely with all my skin... just that alone is a quest in itself.
"But to be here wearing the yellow jersey – for my team, my country, a group of people around me... it leaves me a little lost for words," exclaimed Cadel Evans after the 3,430km race.
Evans finished the first stage of the Tour in 2nd place, and never dropped below 4th for the following three weeks, but he saved the best for last.
He donned the yellow jersey after the penultimate stage and proudly rode into Paris as the 2011 Tour de France champion.
He won by 1m34s over Leopard Trek's Andy Schleck, with Frank Schleck a further 56sec back.
In the Tour's first week, Evans and his BMC teammates spent a lot of energy ensuring they were at the front of the peloton to minimise their chances of avoiding early Tour nerves and the inevitable crashes.
It was a successful strategy and the team watched on as many strong riders left the Tour with injuries.
As the Tour went on, BMC rode defensively, they said they never really had to go on attack until the penultimate stage - the individual time trial.
Before that point they followed attacks, took responsibility for reeling in breaks, Evans earned a stage victory in a two man battle with defending champion Alberto Contador, and the team had some great chases which made this Tour exciting until the very last stage.
Today was that last stage.
Evans had only to get safely to the Champs Elysees finish line - which he did flanked by his teammates.
Loyal lieutentant George Hincapie was one of the first to congratulate the 34 year old, but he deserves congratulations himself. This is his 16th Tour de France - his 9th working for the Tour winner!
"I told the guys before the start today to soak up every moment, every bump, every corner, every sound you hear because it's special and something you will remember the rest of your life," Hincapie said.
"From the chaos of the first week to the challenges we had during the mountains to the different tactical approaches the other teams were taking to the dramatic time trial at the end – it was all very special."
2011 was Evans' 7th Tour de France. He made his debut in 2005 finishing 8th, was runner up in 2007 and 2008, but today he took the ultimate prize.
His victory is a personal victory after a career littered with setbacks, a team victory for BMC and a nation's victory for Australia - Evans is their first Tour champion.
For Evans, it is a dream come true.
"As a young child we aspire to a lot of things in life and watching the Tour de France in 1991 and seeing [Miguel] Indurain tear everyone to pieces planted a small seed in my head that continued to grow.
"I went through some difficult periods – for two years I was really unlucky coming so close to winning here but maybe it's just made it all that more special now."
"I was a bit surprised that Tina Arena came out to sing [the Australian national] anthem, that was very nice of her. I think that's the ultimate dream of a Tour rider, to stand on the Champs-Elysees with an Australian singing the national anthem... it's not a dream that comes true for many Australians.
"This win is for everyone in our country. It's amazing.
"I hope I've brought a great deal of joy to my countrymen. It's been a pleasure and an honour to fly the flag over here."
Tour de France
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