To articulate what Cadel Evans achieved Saturday in Grenoble almost defies Anthony Tan’s ability to put into words. This is his attempt to describe the indescribable.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM


Cadel may be idiosyncratic, but he is also a scrapper, a fighter, a warrior, and a champion
To articulate what Cadel Evans achieved Saturday in Grenoble almost defies Anthony Tan's ability to put into words. This is his attempt to describe the indescribable.

Did I say it was in the bag or did I say it was in the bag?!

From
the moment he left the start house in Grenoble Saturday afternoon, 4:12
p.m. Central European Time, legs turning powerfully, legs turning
briskly, it was apparent Cadel Evans had strength to spare.

Strength he would need for the most important race of his life.

But
from the moment the only two men that had a realistic chance of beating
him, Fränk and Andy Schleck, left the same start house in Grenoble,
three and six minutes later, respectively, it was clear they had no
strength to bare.
Strength they would need for the most important race of their lives.

* * *

Evans
passed the first intermediate time check, after 15 of 42.5 kilometres,
36 and 34 seconds, respectively, ahead of Andy and Fränk.

In terms of the classement général virtuel, it meant he was 21 seconds off the race lead of Schleck the Younger, the overnight leader; the maillot jaune flapping about his bony carcass, emaciated after 19 days in the saddle.

Growing
stronger, going faster, Evans passed the second intermediate time
check, after 27.5 of 42.5km, 1:42 and 1:43 minutes, respectively, ahead
of Andy and Fränk. In terms of the lassement général virtuel, he was now 45 seconds ahead of the race lead of Schleck the Younger, the overnight leader no longer.

Still
growing stronger, still going faster, Evans passed the third
intermediate time check, after 35.5 of 42.5km, 2:10 and 2:11 minutes,
respectively, ahead of Andy and Fränk. In terms of the classement général virtuel,
he was now 1:13 ahead of the race lead of Schleck the Younger,
wrestling with his aero Trek time machine as if it were a size too big
for him.

By the finish, the fourth and final time check after
42.5km, Evans was 2:31 and 2:34 minutes, respectively, ahead of Andy and
Fränk.

* * *

At one point, Evans came within two seconds
of Tony Martin's time but would eventually finish second on the stage,
seven seconds behind the German from HTC-High Road – who did a time only
six seconds slower than his winning ride on 8 June at the Critérium du
Dauphiné, an exact replica of today's parcours.

And
compared to his Dauphiné TT where he finished fifth in a time of 56:47,
Cadel went 1:07 quicker than the time he set six weeks ago, recording a
time of 55:40!

The next best would be the defending champion, Alberto Contador, who at 1:06 minutes off Martin's 55:27, was some way off.

In terms of the classement général, Evans became the new race leader, deposing the erstwhile maillot jaune and relegating the lithe Luxembourgers, Andy and Fränk, to second and third overall, 1:34 and 2:30 minutes behind.

* * *

In
a way, I feel sorry for Andy Schleck, who must be wondering what it
takes to win the greatest bike race of all, and whether he will ever do
it.

In my mind, he simply didn't come to the Tour as
well-prepared as he should have been. It felt like he was playing a game
of catch-up all year, never close to 100 percent, except for perhaps
Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the final days of this Tour.

And today, metaphorically speaking, Evans finally caught up before going straight past him.

Asking
Evans to help him and his brother Fränk yesterday, before the climb of
Alpe d'Huez and after Andy had tried in vain to ride away from him with
Contador, was a tell-tale sign of a man desperate to try anything.

Schleck even admitted as much afterwards, saying the rationale wasn't quite there, but he thought he'd give it a go, anyway.

As for Fränk, he never looked like winning this race, even if he will finish on the Paris podium tomorrow.

Like
an agitated schoolboy on the first day of school, he was nervously
biting his fingernails minutes ahead of his 4:15 p.m. start time
Saturday; and even before a pedal had been turned, Fränk had already
lost.

The demeanour and mannerisms of the brothers Schleck was in
complete contrast to Evans: quiet and peaceful as the Swiss village of
Stabio where he lives when in Europe, yet within, pumped to the
eyeballs, knowing exactly what he had to do to create what may arguably
be the most memorable piece of Australian sporting history.

* * *

Nothing except complete and utter disaster will stop the 34-year-old from being celebrated as the first Australian 'vainqueur' of the Tour de France tomorrow, on the celebrated cobblestones of Paris' most famous street, the Champs-Élysées.

Cadel
may be idiosyncratic, but he is also a scrapper, a fighter, a warrior,
and a champion. In a sport that seems to encourage and reward
selfishness, he is also a kind human being who not always thinks of
himself.

And from just after 5 p.m. Sunday 24 July, he will also be known as the winner of the 2011 Tour de France.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan