Final Tour de France ride opens with Evans in lead
Updated: July 24, 2011, 10:07
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PARIS (AP) Cadel Evans is wearing the yellow jersey as Tour de France riders set off for Stage 21, the largely ceremonial ride to the finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
The BMC team leader is set to become the first Australian to win the race after the 59-mile ride from the southeastern suburb of Creteil to the French capital on Sunday.
The two-time runner-up answered his critics a day earlier by wresting the race lead from Andy Schleck of Luxembourg in the final time trial.
Before setting off, riders removed their helmets and observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the attacks in Norway.
"When this kind of thing happens, everybody forgets about the sport,'' said Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd. "It's not even important in comparison.
"It's quite nice that everybody thinks of us. We're a small country ... unfortunately this can happen anywhere.''
Hushovd and his compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen won two stages each in this year's race.
Although the winner of the race is already decided, there should still be some drama in the final stage. Sprinters vie to win the stage, and the final winner of the green jersey for best sprinter of the race is not yet decided, although Britain's Mark Cavendish is favored to retain his lead.
With the victory, Evans becomes the oldest winner of the Tour since World War II, narrowly eclipsing Gino Bartali of Italy - who was also 34 but slightly younger - when he won in 1948. The all-time record was set by 36-year-old Firmin Lambot of Belgium in 1922.
This year's edition of the 108-year-old race featured one of the most exciting finishes in years - and without a serious doping blight that marred past Tours.