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Tour de France Win!

July 24th, 2011

photo credit: AP

Tour de France Win!

July 24, 2011 — Australia’s Cadel Evans won cycling’s biggest event Sunday — the Tour de France.  It’s a grueling three-week, 2,000-mile race through France’s countryside and city streets which, after all that, came down to just one minute of racing between two men: Cadel Evans and Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. Both had finished in second place in previous years and both really wanted to finish first this time.

The Tour de France isn’t a straight forward race from start to finish. It’s 21 days of racing where each day, called a ‘stage’, is treated like its own race within the overall one. Each stage is different, requiring specific strengths and skills from racers. Mainly they race head-to-head, though sometimes against the clock only (called time trials). And depending on the natural terrain, they race on straight flat roads, up steep winding mountains, and just about everything in between.

The total race is about the distance from New York City to Salt Lake City, Utah — 3/4 of the way across the United States! And though it’s day after day of racing, there’s no shortage of excitement.

Though only one person wins the Tour de France, it’s actually a team event. There were 22 teams this year with nine racers on each team. The strongest rider is the team leader and the rest unselfishly race in various stages to support him.

Riders go anywhere from 14 – 140 miles per day! At the end of each stage, the overall leader gets to wear a yellow jersey for the next stage. There are different colored jerseys for other accomplishments as well but it’s yellow most are after.

It was a nail biter to the end this year, rare for this race. Andy Schleck was predicted to win overall when he took the lead in Stage 19 through the mountainous Alps — super tough but what he’s great at. If he could hold his 57-second lead in Stage 20, he’d win the whole Tour de France. But Stage 20 was a time trial which is Cadel Evans’ speciality. If Evans could make up that time, then he’d be the champion.  Though a minute doesn’t sound like a lot, some weren’t sure Evans would be able to do it. But he did, with extra to spare … and it earned him the win!

Sunday’s final Stage 21 counts but wasn’t a factor for Evans. It’s mainly ceremonial for the leader by the time they ride through Paris down the famous Champs de Elysees (part of it with a celebratory glass of champagne in hand!). It’s almost impossible to mount a comeback here.

Evans is the first Australian ever to win the Tour de France though he’d come in second twice before . He’s also the oldest to win in it in a long while at age 34. And it’s the first time two brothers, Andy and Frank Schleck, were on the podium together, coming in 2nd and 3rd!

Evans had a lot more to overcome than his previous second place finishes. According to reports, he was kicked in the head by a horse when he was 8-years old, fracturing his skull and leaving him in a coma. Doctors didn’t expect him to walk again. He not only did that, but cycled his way to the winner’s podium in this elite event!

by Arlo

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