With the crashes of the first half of the race behind him, Cadel Evans finally ascended to the top step of the Tour de France podium after winning the 2011 edition. Evans had twice finished second. It was a tour of firsts. Evans became the first Australian to win the world’s most prestigious bike race, and the brothers Schleck, Andy and Frank, became the first siblings to share the podium, taking second and third, respectively. In an electrifying tour, Evans pulled out the win on the second to last day in the individual time trial, soundly beating both Schlecks to win the three-week race by over a minute and a half. A plucky Frenchman, Thomas Voeckler, had given French fans hope for ten days as he tenaciously clung to the overall lead, only to finally succumb on the grueling climbs of the Alps. He finished fourth overall. Defending champion Alberto Contador, perhaps weakened by his May victory in the exhausting three-week Tour of Italy, or Giro d’Italia, could do no better than fifth. Through it all, the beauty of France shone through
Australia’s Cadel Evans (center) celebrates with BMC teammates on the Champs-Elysees after he won the 2011 Tour de France cycling race on July 24, 2011
The Garmin-Cervelo team win the stage two team time trial on July 3, 2011 in Les Essarts, France.
Saxo Bank-Sungard’s Alberto Contador (left) of Spain is followed up a climb by Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert of Belgium during the fourth stage from Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne on July 5, 2011
One of the breakaway men, Netherland’s Johnny Hoogerland, is caught in a barbed wire fence during the ninth stage between Issoire and Saint-Flour on July 10, 2011. Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha and Hoogerland survived being hit at speed by a car which bore the marking of France Television
The pack rides during the 11th stage starting in Blaye les Mines and finishing in Lavaur on July 13, 2011
Jeremy Roy is cheered by fans wearing polka dot jerseys (the polka dot jersey is worn by the tour’s best climber in mountain stages) as he rides alone in the fog in a breakaway in the 14th stage between Pau and Lourdes on July 15 , 2011
Fabian Cancellara climbs toward the summit of the Col d’Aubisque during Stage 13 on July 15, 2011. Riders tuck newspapers handed to them by fans into their jerseys to insulate themselves on chilly mountain descents where speeds can approach 60 mph.
Thomas Voeckler of France puts the overall leader’s yellow jersey back on after removing an undergarment as he climbs in the pack towards Col de la Porte pass during the 14th stage in the Pyrenees on July 16, 2011
The leaders for the overall general classification, including yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler, head toward the summit of the Plateau de Beille during Stage 13 on July 16, 2011
Remy Di Gregorio of France rides during the 14th stage from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille on July 16, 2011 as fans cheer him on.
The peloton climbs Col d’Agnes pass heading to Plateau de Beille on July 16, 2011
The peloton climbs toward the summit of the Plateau de Beille during Stage 14 on July 16, 2011
(Left to right) Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, and Thomas Voeckler climb towards Plateau de Beille during the 14th stage on July 16, 2011
Dutch rider Laurens ten Dam is covered with blood after a face plant on a descent from the Col d’Agnes mountain pass on July 16, 2011. Ten Dam finished the 168.5 kms stage with gauze wrapped around his face to cover his bloodied nose
The peloton crosses Serre Poncon Lake at Savines le Lac in the French Alps during the 17th stage starting in Gap, France, and finishing in Pinerolo, Italy on July 20, 2011.
A small group of riders climbs on the Col du Galibier during stage 18 on July 21, 2011
Thomas Voeckler, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, rides Izoard pass during the 18th stage on July 21, 2011
Johnny Hoogerland of The Netherlands sprays himself with water as he climbs Izoard pass during the 18th stage on July 21, 2011. Hoogerland was the rider who cartwheeled into a barbed-wire fence on the 9th stage after car hit a rider and caused a crash
On the Col du Galibier, (left to right) Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Thomas Voeckler, Damiano Cunego, Frank Schleck, Pierre Rolland, and Alberto Contador duel in pursuit of a breakaway by Andy Schleck on July 21, 2011
Thomas Voeckler clenches his fist as he retains the overall leader’s yellow jersey while crossing the finish line on Galibier pass during the 18th stage on July 21, 2011.
Alberto Contador (right) and Andy Schleck speed down Galibier pass during the 19th stage on their way to Alpe d’Huez on July 22, 2011.
Cadel Evans of Australia climbs Alpe d’Huez during the 19th stage on July 22, 2011.
Alberto Contador punches a spectator dressed in medical garb who had been running alongside him sticking a stethoscope in Contador’s face as he climbed Alpe d’Huez during the 19th stage on July 22, 2011
Australia’s Cadel Evans dominates the 20th stage time trial around Grenoble on July 23, 2011
Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck is comforted by his brother Frank Schleck at the end of the individual time-trial in Grenoble on July 23, 2011. Andy Schleck lost the tour when Cadel Evans soundly beat him on the stage.
Cadel Evans, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, toasts with a glass of champagne during the 21st stage of the Tour de France on his way to Paris on July 24, 2011.
The peloton sweeps down the Champs Elysees in Paris on the final day of the Tour de France on July 24, 2011.