CADEL Evans has been lauded by Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme as the finest ambassador of the event during its new age of expansion because of his impact in creating interest in the race around the world.
For the Tour owner, Amaury Sport Organisation, its expansion plans are focused on broadening its market for the sale of television broadcasting rights to 190 countries worldwide, including Mongolia.
Asked to elaborate on the historic significance and impact of Evans’ Tour victory last year, Prudhomme said: ”It’s the first time that someone from the southern hemisphere has won. It’s the first time that an Australian has won.”
But Prudhomme said he didn’t realise the extent of Evans’ impact on awareness about the Tour until reading how well his win had been received by Tibet in the Federation Francaise du Cyclisme magazine, La France Cycliste, in an interview with the 35-year-old Tour champion.
Evans’ ties with Tibet are strong. He has sponsored a Tibetan child and has been a supporter of Tibet’s push for freedom from Chinese occupation. In the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Evans even wore an under-shirt adorned with the Tibetan flag in several early season races.
Recalling the FFC magazine article, Prudhomme said: ”In it, Cadel says, ‘Even my Tibetan friends know what I have done on the Tour de France’.
”Everywhere knows what he has done. He is the ‘plus belle ambassador’ of the Tour.
”He comes from so far away, from Down Under … and through him and how he talks himself, the images of the Tour are everywhere in the world.”
Since his Tour win last year, Prudhomme has noted a calmer well-being in the former mountain biker who, last December and with his wife Chiara Passerini, adopted an Ethiopian boy named Robel. ”I find him happy. There is an air of happiness about him,” Prudhomme said.
Meanwhile, Prudhomme also acknowledged the prominence of Anglo-Saxon riders in the last three grand tours of Spain, Italy and France.
After Evans won last year’s Tour, Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome (Sky) and teammate Bradley Wiggins placed second and third overall in the Vuelta a Espana. Then Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) won this year’s Giro d’Italia that finished on May 27.
Evans, Wiggins and Hesjedal are contenders for this year’s Tour that resumes today with the 197-kilometre third stage from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer.
”It is a symbol for the Anglo-Saxon world,” Prudhomme said of their results. ”We have had the first [English speaking] winner of the Tour de France, and the first win by a Canadian in the Giro, and now perhaps we can say of the favourites for the Tour that they are English [speaking].”
Because of its increasing worldwide popularity, Prudhomme believes the Tour is entering a new era of promise, despite recent doping controversies.
As for this year’s Tour, he hopes for: ”Suspense, a super fight, defiance, exploits and of course no accidents.
”We hope the riders tackle the course like they did last year where they will dare. If they dare we will have a beautiful spectacle.”
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