Cadel Evans finally achieved success in his seven-year battle to win the Tour de France on Saturday as his main rivals fell off his pace in the individual time trial in Grenoble.
The 34-year-old BMC Racing cyclist overcame a 57-second deficit to pass the Brothers Schleck – Andy and Frank – to become the first Australian to win the Tour.
Although there is still the bike race into Paris on the Champs Elysees on Sunday, that's mainly ceremonial for the top riders. The sprinters take control in the final circuits to battle for the stage win.
Schlecks fall off pace
Andy Schleck, who just captured the yellow jersey in the final Alpine stage on Friday, is not known for his time-trialing abilities. That might have been compounded by the attacks he made or marked in the Alps the past three days.
The Schlecks, from Luxembourg, created this Leopard-Trek team with some of the best racers in cycling, including Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt. It was well-managed throughout the Tour, but the Schlecks appeared ill-prepared for this final test.
Andy Schleck lost 2:31 to Evans in the individual time trial.
HTC HighRoad cyclist Tony Martin of Germany won the individual time trial, a 42.5km (26.3-mile) course around Grenoble.
Evans finished second in the time trial, followed by defending champion Alberto Contador (SaxoBank). Andy Schleck finished in 17th, followed by his brother Frank in 18th.
On Sunday, Evans will take the top step on the podium in Paris, with Andy in 2nd and Frank in 3rd. Just off stage in 4th will be Thomas Voeckler, the Frenchman who amazingly held onto the yellow jersey for 9 days that included the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Former mountain biker
For Evans, it's a final success on a road to the top of the podium that began in 2001 when he left behind his championship mountain biking career to try road racing.
As a member of the Davitaman-Lotto, he finished in 8th in his first Tour de France. Since then, he finished 6th in 2006, 2nd in 2007 and 2008, 30th in 2009 and 26th in 2010. He joined the BMC Racing team in 2010.
This year, Evans had his eye on the prize from the beginning. He was in 2nd or 3rd place overall after every stage except the 18th when he dropped to 4th place. He won Stage 4.
For American George Hincapie, the victory means that he's been the teammate of the Tour de France champion nine times — seven with Lance Armstrong, once with Contador, and now Evans.
Tom Danielson (Garmin Cervelo) finished 8th in the individual time trial to protect 9th place overall in the Tour.
Defending champion Contador, who lost time after a crash early in the Tour, finished 5th overall.
Top 10 overall
1 Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team
2 Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek — 1:34
3 Fränk Schleck, Leopard Trek — 2:30
4 Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar — 3:20
5 Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank — 3:57
6 Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi — 4:55
7 Damiano Cunego, Lampre – ISD — 6:05
8 Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale — 7:23
9 Thomas Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo — 8:15
10 Jean Christophe Peraud, AG2R — 10:11
9. Tom Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo — 8:15
17. Christian Vande Velde, Garmin Cervelo — 27:12
32. Levi Leipheimer, RadioShack — 1:03:58
56. George Hincapie, BMC Racing — 1:45:16
82. Tejay Van Garderen, HTC Highroad — 2:25:11
114. Brent Bookwalter, BMC Racing — 3:03:47
165. Danny Pate, HTC Highroad — 3:45:26
Green points jersey champion — Mark Cavendish, HTC Highroad
King of the mountains — Samuel Sanchez, Eusaltel Euskadi
Best young rider — Pierre Rolland, Team Europcar
Best team — Garmin Cervelo