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Cadel Evans in Australia for victory parade

Updated: August 10, 2011, 20:43

FILE - In this July 5, 2011 file photo, stage winner Cadel Evans of Australia celebrates on the podium of the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 172.5 kilometers (107.2 miles) starting in Lorient and finishing in Mur de Bretagne, Brittany, western France. Tour de France champion Evans has arrived in Australia Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011, looking forward to celebrating his victory with his home supporter. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, Fille)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Tour de France champion Cadel Evans returned to Australia on Thursday looking forward to his victory parade, and to a hug.

Evans, the first Australian - and only the third non-European - to win the most prestigious event in cycling, landed at Melbourne Airport ahead of parade in his honor on Friday.

After what he described as a good July and a great Tour de France, Evans said he looked forward to celebrating his victory with everyone who had supported him.

"I've been working at the Tour de France for the best part of my whole life, and then when it all comes together, to have been supported all this way through and be able to bring the yellow jersey back to Australia, of course I'm proud to do it,'' he said.

Evans and wife Chiara first planned to spend Thursday with family and friends, including Evans' mother Helen Cocks.

"It's always nice to come home and get a hug from your mum,'' he said.

It has been weeks since Evans won the tour on July 24, but tens of thousands of fans are expected to watch Evans cycle a stretch of road in inner Melbourne on Friday, before addressing the crowd from the stage at downtown Federation Square.

When he's not in Europe or competing in the ProTour, the 34-year-old Evans lives in the coastal town of Barwon Heads - about 62 miles south of Melbourne. He's on a quick break Down Under before returning to his BMC Racing team.

Evans said he had been inundated with messages of support from Australia since winning the Tour.

"When you ride in the Tour de France you're concentrated on each day and each race and so on, sometimes you forget that there's 20 million people at home cheering you on,'' Evans said.

"Having so many people calling me and congratulating me, and sending me messages, then when the newspapers started arriving at home, obviously then it was like `wow.' It's been so appreciated by everyone. It's an honor and a pleasure.''

Evans' win has been described as the greatest individual sporting achievement in Australian history by local commentators, politicians and fellow-athletes, but the cyclist brushed aside the plaudits.

"I don't know if it's the greatest, but it's been something that I've worked hard on for so long ... I've also come very close before, but just for a little bit of bad luck it didn't quite come through, but that makes it so much more worthwhile on a personal level,'' said Evans, who was a runner-up twice before winning the Tour.

"I'm just happy that everyone enjoyed it, everyone enjoyed following it and seeing it,'' he said. "It's the culmination of many, many years of work for a lot of people.''

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