There are more popular winners of the Tour de France than Cadel Evans but perhaps few as deserving.
The Australian earned his first Tour victory the hard way, riding at the front for three weeks, through crashes, narrow, wet roads, up the high mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps and around Grenoble against the clock.
The stars aligned and he rode the perfect race.
He did it his way: careful, tenacious, opportunistic, calculating and steadfast. The fans that line the mountain roads wish Andy Schleck had won — somebody with more flash — but the triumph went to the quiet, thoughtful Evans.
The man has never delivered an exciting quote but there is no faulting his resolve, his heart or his force of will. The 2011 Tour de France belongs to a former mountain-biker with the pianist wife. He likes fine wine, enjoys reading good books and listens to opera.
That makes him not only an amazing freak of physiology but an odd duck in the peloton. His Tour win will perhaps inspire other riders to train harder and hang out at the bookstore.
At times he looked overmatched and isolated, outnumbered by the Brothers Schleck and without Basso or Sanchez or Voeckler to take a pull. He simply gritted his teeth and dug deeper when others hung on his wheel, happy just to make the top ten.
After so much bad luck in the tour over the years, so many crashes, so little team support, Evans can look back at the last two years with immense pride. The rainbow jersey of world road race champion and a Tour de France victory.
That’s a career right there. When he won the worlds, he gained the confidence to become a more aggressive, attacking rider. Twisted Spoke hopes that his Tour win will allow Evans to relax and enjoy the ride. Open up, laugh more, let down his guard, talk some shit.
Evans wins Tour, flaunts personality. Hell, why not?
There will be a party tonight at the BMC hotel tonight, a chain Novotel in the town of Voreppe. Knowing Evans, it will be a quiet affair without too much champagne just yet.
Still, it will be a tremendous moment to sit down with his team after three weeks and many years of hard work and sacrifice. His thanks will be genuine and his contentment deep.