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.
Racked with pain, Evans lost his lead the following day. “I'm pretty sure it's all over for this year,” he said at the time. “I’m sorry to have let [my team] down.
Evans escaped serious injury in the myriad crashes that marred the beginning of this year’s race, which wound through the narrow, twisting roads of Brittany.
Some podium hopefuls, including American Chris Horner of Radio Shack, were forced to abandon the race after crashing.
Stage 9, in the Massif Central mountain range, brought the Tour’s worst carnage. Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov fractured his femur during a slippery descent early in the stage; later that day, a French television car clipped the bike of Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha. He fell to the ground and, in the process, knocked Holland’s Johnny Hoogerland into a barbed wire fence.