Evans's cautious tactics almost backfired, though. He initially neglected to follow Andy Schleck’s breakaway up the Col du Galibier on Thursday’s Stage 18, before scrambling to catch up and stay in the race.
The next day’s stage, which took riders up the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb, Evans suffered a mechanical problem, but recovered to finish the day 57 seconds behind Schleck, who moved into the yellow jersey.
Schleck lasted just one day in the lead. During Saturday’s 26-mile individual time trial around Grenoble, Evans – considered a stronger rider than Schleck in the discipline – more than erased his time deficit.
Speeding along the course, Evans finished the day with a 1 minute and a half lead on Schleck. Receiving his yellow jersey on the podium afterward, Evans threw a bouquet of flowers into the crowd like an excited bride.
“I can’t quite believe it,” he said yesterday. “I’ve concentrated on winning this Tour for so long.”
A former champion mountain biker, Evans turned his attention to road bikes in 2001.
He raced his first Tour de France in 2005 and two years later, finished runner-up to champion Alberto Contador. But misfortune followed. He wore the yellow jersey in 2008, only to lose it down the stretch to Spain’s Carlos Sastre.
Last year, with a new team, he took the race lead on Stage 8 but fractured his right elbow in the process.