No public holiday but Aussie PM leads celebrations of Cadel Evans' Tour de France win
Boyhood dream come true, admits BMC Racing rider after winning cycling's biggest race
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has led the country in congratulating Cadel Evans on his Tour de France win, but rejected calls to declare a public holiday to celebrate his victory, meaning that there’s likely to be some rather tired and emotional cycling fans, old and new, turning up for work on a Monday morning around about now.
The BMC Racing rider’s exploits have gripped the country these past few days, with more than 1 million people reportedly tuning in to watch the time trial performance on Saturday which propelled him into the maillot jaune and effectively sealed his won.
"I do want to say a very big congratulations to Cadel Evans," said Ms Gillard, quoted on Fox News.
"I had the opportunity this morning to speak and to personally offer my congratulations. I believe I disturbed him while he was trying to get a nice, hot bath."
In 1983, when Australia won the America’s Cup in sailing, the first non-US boat to do so, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke said: “Any boss who sacks a worker for taking the day off tomorrow is a bum."
Ms Gillard stopped short of saying that, instead hinting that people would be more productive as a result if Evans’ victory.
"We did share a joke about his impact on the economy of our nation. 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 for tomorrow, 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."
The 34-year-old Evans, meanwhile, revealed that standing on the Champs-Elysees podium in the maillot jaune this afternoon was the culmination of a dream dating back 20 years.
“As a young child we aspire to a lot of things in life and watching the Tour de France in 1991 and seeing [Miguel] Indurain tear everyone to pieces planted a small seed in my head that continued to grow,” he said.
“I went through some difficult periods – for two years I was really unlucky coming so close to winning here but maybe it’s just made it all that more special now.
“This win is for everyone in our country. It’s amazing,” continued Evans, who with his wife Chiara splits his time when not racing between homes in Switzerland – his 2009 world championship win came on local roads – and Victoria.
“Things were shaping up really nicely but it’s not over until you cross the finish line. Now we have, so it’s done and won,” he added.
Twice a runner-up, to Alberto Contador in 2007 and Carlos Sastre 12 months later, Evans continued: “It’s been years of hard work and there were a lot of moments in this three weeks where our Tour was lost but to get here safely with all my skin, just that alone is a quest in itself.
“But to be here wearing the yellow jersey – for my team, my country, a group of people around me... it leaves me a little lost for words.
“I hope I’ve brought a great deal of joy to my countrymen,” concluded Evans. “It’s been a pleasure and an honor to fly the flag over here,” he concluded.
It’s likely that there will be some form of celebration of Evans’ success next time he finds himself Down Under, although given that the same Bob Hawke abolished knighthoods back in 1986, we won’t be hearing the words, “Arise, Sir Cadel…”