Australia celebrated its first Tour de France champion in 108 years on Monday with the achievement of Cadel Evans being ranked alongside the greatest moments in the country’s rich sporting history.
With plenty of time to sharpen their pencils after Evans destroyed Andy Schleck in Saturday’s time trial in Grenoble to assure himself of victory, the country’s media was dominated by the story of the slender 34-year-old’s triumph.“King Cadel” trumpeted the frontpage of Melbourne’s the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald led with a banner headline “Joy and agony of a champion” above a large picture of Evans all contained in a yellow box.
“Tour de Champ” raved Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, while the Australian was the only of the major newspapers to lead on the Norway massacre with Evans—the “Tour champion 13 years in the making”—further down the front page.
Many compared Evans’s breakthrough triumph to Australia winning sailing’s America’s Cup in 1983 to end the 132-year monopoly of the trophy by the United States.
“This is a historic day for Evans and a monumental day in the history of Australian cycling and sport in general,” said Mike Turtur, an Olympic champion track cyclist and race director of the Tour Down Under.
“Cadel Evans also showed that he is a pretty special athlete, blessed with a very big motor … this achievement by Evans puts him … right up there with what we as a nation have achieved across any number of other sports at the Olympics, world championships and winning the America’s Cup.”
Turtur, who said he would be delighted if Evans were to race in the Tour Down Under next year, said the fact that he had achieved what he had without drugs was significant.
“It was done with true grit, a great deal of guts and a panache to prove to the world you can win the biggest race in the world while riding clean,” Tutur told the Australian paper.
“What Evans has done is to send a massive clear message to the idiots who still want to dope and not just in cycling.”
Although Evans was the oldest winner of cycling’s most prestigious race since World War II, a leading Australian cycling coach thinks he could repeat his triumph.
“There is longevity if you’re looking after yourself, which Cadel does, he does everything right,” Dave Sanders of the Victorian Institute of Sport, where Evans made the switch from mountain bikes to road racing in 2001, told AAP.
“He could have another couple in him, for sure—whether he wants to. This was the great landmark in his mind … this is what he’s lived for.”
Australia’s government granted a national holiday after the 1983 America’s Cup triumph but Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would not be marking Evan’s achievement in the same way.
“I do want to say a very big congratulations to Cadel Evans,” she said in Hobart on Sunday.
“I had the opportunity this morning to speak and to personally offer my congratulations. I believe I disturbed him while he was trying to get a nice, hot bath.”