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Tour ’11 St. 21: Evans Above!
Race report: Crйteil isn’t the most prepossessing suburb to start a final Tour de France stage in, but the fans are out in force and the jersey holders are lined up for the start. A moment’s silence for the Norwegian massacre victims is a somber prelude to Australia’s greatest cycling triumph. Cadel Evans is the deserved winner (at last!) of the Tour de France. This is the story of stage 21 …

95kms to go: The peloton rolls out of Crйteil on a Sunday club run. It’s the normal procession and a photo call. Evans resplendent in yellow; Cavendish in green (for now); Sanchez in the dots; Rolland in virginal white. Cadel gets a celebratory glass of champagne but he gets a bit of a wobble on and a team-mate has to steady him. This is no time to shred peoples’ nerves, Cadel!

40 kms to go and Ben Swift is the first rider to get a significant advantage, nipping away. Up onto the Rue de Rivoli, and five come across: Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Sergio Paulinho (Radioshack) and Kristjan Koren (Liquigas).

BMC lead the field but with no great urgency. The six take the sprint points, but Cavendish blasts clear of Rojas in the dash for the minor placings and Renshaw jams himself between them. Nice. Two extra points’ advantage for the Manxman.

30 kms to go and Garmin-Cervelo take up the chase. The break has 35 seconds and Cav is chasing back on after a mechanical. The six breakaways are stretching it out nicely, but breakaways don’t succeed on the Champs Йlysйes

20kms to go and BMC and Garmin-Cervelo are still blasting along, but the break is holding out at 39 seconds. Carlos Barredo is off the cobbles after a tumble, and chases back alone, bunny-hopping the curb to shorten the distance to the peloton. The riders have been taking the Arc de Triomphe turn very slowly and guys are unclipping and putting their foot down.

12kms to go and now Lampre-ISD and QuickStep come forward to help drag the breakaways back. Evans is tucked in safely, and there are just two six-kilometre loops remaining. The lead is now coming down, like a deflating balloon – 27 seconds. Up front, Lars Bak is contributing nothing, hoping for his team-mates to pull it together for Cavendish to win a third straight Champs Йlysйes sprint. The other five are through and off, trying to stay clear.

9kms to go and the lead is down to 20 seconds. It’s not a given that we’ll have a field sprint. Cavendish is looking to get one place better than Jose Joaquin Rojas to clinch the green jersey.

6kms to go: Fifteen seconds for the escapees. Ding-ding-ding, the bell is clanging! Like a boxing match, the riders come out slugging one last time, but the break is still clear. Flying down the Rue de Rivoli and it’s touching 60kms an hour. The field is lined out seemingly half the length of this famous street.

The front of the field fans out and Sylvain Chavanel is on the front. Carlos Barredo is back up and fighting fit, launching off the front of the field.

5.2kms to go and Ben Swift is screaming up the gutter on the right-hand side of the road. Lars Bak jumps on him and goes past. Swift is dangling desperately. It’s a handful of seconds as Bak now navigates the turn at the Arc de Triomphe.

HTC-Highroad are suddenly on the front, lining it out. Only Bak and Swift are stil clear.

3kms to go and Evans is safe! A tumble, a crash? Doesn’t matter now – he’ll get the same time as everyone else. The Tour is won!

Lars Bak has 11 seconds as he glances over his shoulder.

2kms to go: Bak sits up. Philippe Gilbert is drilling it on the front, Thor Hushovd on his wheel. Thor is looking for Tyler Farrar. Vacansoleil have sent men to the front for Borut Bozic.

Flamme Rouge! Final kilometer: Bernie Eisel screams under the red kite, full tilt. Tony Martin hits the front, belting along the Place de la Concorde. Round the final turn and it’s done and dusted. Cav is launched and Boasson Hagen (Sky) can’t get past the Manx Missile. Renshaw is punching the air behind. Even leaving it to 170 meters to go into a headwind, he makes it look easy.

Twentieth Tour stage win in four Tours for Cav; he becomes only the second Brit to take a Tour jersey after the legendary Robert Millar’s King of the Mountains in 1984.

BMC Racing team cross the line, Hincapie on Evans’s right, Burghardt on his left and the rest cram in for a celebratory huddle. The oldest post-War Tour champion suddenly looks a whole lot younger.

2011’s Tour de France is over, and it’s been a belter of a race. Blood, sweat, tears, crashes, good tactics, bad decisions, strange hesitations, and dynamic taking of responsibility.

Thumbs up to Cav; the Schlecks; Voeckler, Roy and Rolland; a fighting Contador; and the route!

Bigger congrats to Cadel Evans. A thoroughly deserved champion of the Tour at last.

Tour de France Stage 21 Result: Crйteil – Paris Champs Йlysйes, 95km
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Team HTC-Highroad 2 hrs 27’ 02”
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team
3 Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek
6 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
7 Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil
8 Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Astana
9 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) QuickStep
10 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur-Sojasun all same time

Tour de France Stage 2011 Result
1 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 86hrs 12’ 22”
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Leopard-Trek + 1’ 34”
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Leopard-Trek + 2’ 30”
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar + 3’ 20”
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Team Saxobank-Sungard + 3’ 57”
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi + 4’ 55”
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD + 6’ 05”
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale + 7’ 23”
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo + 8’ 15”
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale + 10’ 11”

Green Jersey
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Team HTC-Highroad 334pts
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movista 272 pts
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 236 pts

King of the Mountains
1 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 108 pts
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek 98 pts
3 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 74 pts

White Jersey
1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
2 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis + 46”
3 Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur-Sojasun + 7’ 53”

Teams Classification
1 Team Garmin-Cervelo
2 Leopard-Trek
3 Ag2r La Mondiale


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