Evans above, Aussies enjoy Cadel's moment

"Better late than never."

They were Cadel Evans' final words as he rode off in the fading light in Paris following his Tour de France conquest.

The Australian completed his life-changing three-week odyssey by personally thanking the hundreds of Australians who turned out to party at his victory parade along the Champs Elysees.

And his compatriots couldn't take a hint as the sun went down in central Paris.

Not even security barriers being taken down and roads reopened more than three hours after Evans crossed the finishing line could take the edge off their raucous celebrations.

Evans' exuberant, and in some instances well-lubricated, fellow Australians produced renditions of Waltzing Matilda as he enjoyed a reception worthy of a rock star.

He was hugged, mobbed and told several times that he was loved.

"I'm hoarse now, but my team-mates keep asking me if there is anyone left in Australia and I don't know," said Evans with a beaming smile.

"To be here, with Tina Arena singing the national anthem on the Champs Elysees (at the presentation ceremony), it's 20 years of hard work.

"Finally everything went right."

Veteran Australian cyclist Stuart O'Grady, who rides for rival team Leopard Trek, spent the past month trying to stop Evans from winning the Tour on behalf of Andy and Frank Schleck.

But the 37-year-old, who first pulled on the Tour's yellow jersey back in 1998, was taken by the moment when Evans stood between the Schleck brothers on the victory podium.

"Sitting in the bus, watching the anthem being sung, Aussie flag on the podium with the Champs Elysees in the background, the old Frenchies must be shaking their heads," he said.

"I have a huge respect for Cadel.

"He's already our first world champion, and you know he's just breaking down barrier after barrier after barrier.

"To win a Tour de France. That's epic."

O'Grady, who started his pro career in Europe 16 years, said Evans' feat was mindblowing.

"I know I'm old, when I turned pro it was all about representing Australia and going to the Olympics," he said.

"The Tour was some crazy bike race in France and I would see it on the Wide World of Sports. It's gone ballistic and it can only get bigger and better.

"I think its going to put a lot more bums on bike seats.

"If that doesn't give cycling a boost in Australia I don't know what you can do."


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