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Cadel Evans: From the outback to Tour de France fame

By David Challenger, CNN
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Cadel Evans wins Tour de France
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cadel Evans secures Australia's first ever Tour de France victory
  • Evans: Physically, I was completely unsuitable for almost all school sports
  • Evans lives between Stabio, Switzerland, and Barwon Heads in his native Australia

(CNN) -- Australian Cadel Evans became his country's first ever Tour de France winner after the 21st and final stage of the historic race culminated on the streets of Paris on Sunday.

Evans, who rides for the BMC team, has twice finished runner up in the world's premier cycling event, in 2007 and 2008, and became Australia's first ever world road race champion in 2009.

According to his website, 34-year-old Evans was born in the outback town of Katherine in the Northern Territory and completed his high school education in Eltham, Victoria.

Yet despite his sterling effort on the weekend, Evans seems a little surprised that he was ever on the fast track to sporting greatness.

"It's strange that I could become a professional athlete," he says on his website. "Physically, I was completely unsuitable for almost all Australian school sports. Nearly all Australian school sports require speed and/or size."

Despite this perceived lack of physical prowess, Evans started cycling when he was just two years of age with his 16-inch BMX, and began riding competitively in 1991.

He's just a great guy. He's very modest and has a great community spirit.
--Friend Stephen Draper
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"In 1994 I started competing in road races to help with my mountain biking at the suggestion of my then coach, Damian Grundy, with the thought that 'maybe one day you will be interested to ride the road'."

This interest really began in 2001 when he finished first overall in the Tour of Austria, followed by a second place the following year in the Commonwealth Games. In 2005, he competed in his first Tour de France, finishing 8th.

During the cycling season Evans lives in Stabio, Switzerland, but when things wind down he cycles around his home in the small Victorian seaside village of Barwon Heads in his native Australia.

The rustic town is also home to the local cycling shop, Hendry Cycles, through which Evans established a connection with the area's local riders.

Co-owner of Hendry Cycles and close friend Stephen Draper tells CNN that Evans was always a class act, even before he began participating in major Australian races.

"Cadel started racing in mountain bike races in the early 1990s as a junior, with incredible lap times," Draper recalls. "We knew then that as men in the elite open class our days were numbered."

Draper says Evans' Tour de France victory was made possible by his dedication to mastering his chosen pursuit, backed by many years of training and paying attention to all the tiny incremental improvements he made, which led to a sizeable improvement.

"Aside from all that, he's just a great guy," Draper adds. "He's very modest and has a great community spirit. Some riders do not even realize the cyclist they have been out riding socially with was Cadel."