Evans’ Tour de France win hailed in Australia
Sydney: Cadel Evans` historic Tour de France win was hailed Monday as one of Australia`s finest ever sporting achievements, ranked alongside Rod Laver`s tennis exploits and their America`s Cup yachting triumph.
The 34-year-old fulfilled his lifelong quest by securing the title, 30 years after pioneering compatriot Phil Anderson paved the way for dozens of young Australians by becoming the first non-European to pull on the yellow jersey.
"What can I say? I`ve been dreaming of winning the Tour de France for the past 20 years, ever since I was a 14-year-old," he said, having finished runner-up twice before, in 2007 and 2008.
All the country`s major newspapers carried his victory on their front pages, with some comparing the enormity of his feat to Australia`s 1983 America`s Cup shock, which ended the New York Yacht Club`s 132-year winning streak.
The Sydney Morning Herald celebrated him conquering "one of Australian sport`s last frontiers", with its cycling correspondent Rupert Guinness, who has covered the Tour since 1987, calling it a huge achievement.
"To watch Evans in a near-perfect tour has been an absolute pleasure. He didn`t miss a beat for the entire three weeks," he said.
The Australian broadsheet compared Evans to other Australian cycling icons such as Anderson, as well as Stuart O`Grady and Robbie McEwan, but said he was "undoubtably the greatest of them all".
Debate over where his win sits among Australian sporting achievements was a theme taken up by Sydney`s Daily Telegraph, which ranked it above the America`s Cup upset.
But it considered the cycling triumph to be outranked by the feats of Laver -- who won all four of tennis` Grand Slams in the same year, twice, and was the world number one player for seven consecutive years from 1964 to 1970.
When Australia famously clinched the America`s Cup 28 years ago, then prime minister Bob Hawke declared that "any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum".
And growing legions of cycling fans, encouraged by Evans` wife Chiara Passerini, urged a public holiday Monday in his honour.
But Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who called to congratulate the country`s new hero, ruled it out.
"I had the opportunity to speak and to personally offer my congratulations. I believe I disturbed him while he was trying to get a nice, hot bath," she said, adding that they joked about his impact on the economy.
"I suggested that he wasn`t doing much good for national productivity because everyone was coming to work bleary-eyed," she said.
"He suggested that it`d all be all right in the end because people would feel so full of morale that they`d be cantering into work and working harder.
"So I`m not in a position to announce a public holiday, but I am in a position to share Cadel`s view that ultimately we`ll be more enthused about our daily tasks because we`re celebrating his victory."
While a public holiday is not on the cards, Evans could have a bridge named after him at Barwon Heads in Victoria state, where he lives, while there are suggestions that a new cycling event could be created in his name.
Cycling Australia boss Graham Fredericks said that Evans` achievement would consolidate Australia`s status as a major player in world cycling.
"It`s certainly a tremendous fillip for our sport, it`s the biggest thing that has happened in cycling in this country I would say, without a doubt," he said.
"If we weren`t there, we are now. We are a major player and we are here to tell the Europeans and North Americans that Australia is here to take cycling seriously."