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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8659

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (11:46): I would like to add my congratulations to Cadel Evans on his outstanding, unprecedented achievement in winning the 2011 Tour de France. Since the establishment of the Tour de France in 1903, 98 different cyclists have won the race. Almost exclusively, they come from continental Europe. There are two Americans who have won, Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, and now the first Australian to win, Cadel Evans, has added his name to that prestigious list.

There are a number of Australians who have distinguished themselves in the Tour de France but never won the general classification. Sir Hubert Opperman, the federal Liberal MP for Corio for 17 years—from 1949 to 1966—rode the Tour de France in 1928, and it is fair to say that his Malvern Star would be light-years away from the space age bikes they ride today. Phil Anderson was the first Australian and actually the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey in 1981, and he wore it for nine days in 1982. I can remember visiting France in 1993, when he was still riding the tour, and having conversations with people in rural France who spoke very fondly of 'Skippy', the Australian they knew who rode the Tour de France. Stuart O'Grady has finished second in the points classification for sprinters of the Tour de France on four occasions. Robbie McEwen is a three-time winner of the points classification for sprinters of the Tour de France and has won several stages of the race.

To win the Tour de France, you have to be an exceptional all-round rider. You have to be able to climb, you have to be able to sprint, you have to be good on the road, you have to be good in the mountains. But you also need a very good mind; you need to be able to implement tactics and strategy. If ever we had an Australian who was likely to win the Tour de France, it was Cadel Evans. He has shown over a long period of time how good he is on the bike. In 1998 and 1999, he was first overall in the mountain bike World Cup, the equivalent of the world champion. In the Tour de France he has had high placings: in 2005, he was eighth; in 2006, he was fourth; and, in 2007 and in 2008, he came second—very close, one of the closest runners-up in the history of that race. In 2009 he won the Road World Championships road race. Watching this year's Tour de France, it was one of the most captivating cycling races I have ever seen. Going into the three-week race, for the first two weeks anything that happened it looked like Cadel Evans had the other riders' measure. The race was completely shaken up in the last four or five days when Andy Schleck took off in the Alps and made two or three minutes on the rest of the pack. In responding to that the next day, Cadel Evans had to deal with mechanical failure but with his team he was able to see that he lost no further time on that stage. It is usually said that the Tour de France is won in the mountains but, while Cadel remained in touch in the mountains, he won it in the time trial right at the very end.

As a South Australian member, one of the great benefits of being South Australian is the exposure we get to professional cycling. It was the idea of former Premier John Olsen and also Olympic champion Mike Turtur that we establish a road race in South Australia, the Tour Down Under. It was established in 1999 and it achieved pro tour status. Over the 13 years that it has been held so far we have seen that race going from strength to strength and most of the professional cyclists have appeared at that race. When Lance Armstrong came in 2009 and 2010, and I think 2011, it took the race to another level. The crowds have been massive. I think it was 780,000 people that turned out on the roads to watch this race. Cadel Evans has raced the Tour Down Under as well. In 2002 he won a stage. He won the mountains classification, such as they are in South Australia, in 2006. I well remember taking my family to watch the race up Willunga Hill and watching Cadel Evans and other cyclists of his calibre charging up Willunga Hill.

Cadel has said that he has not made a decision yet about whether he will attend the Tour Down Under and we cannot be selfish because it may not fit with his program and his training and what he wants to achieve next year, which is much more important. But I know that when he does next appear at the Tour Down Under the crowds will actually rival those which saw Lance Armstrong.

I should also congratulate SBS on their magnificent coverage of the Tour de France. Fifteen years ago watching the Tour de France was probably a bit of a niche activity; it was not as widely watched as it is now. I think over the last three or four years they have seen their coverage double each year. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin come to South Australia every year for the Tour Down Under, where instead of commenting on French chateaux they are commenting on the South Australian vineyards and pointing them out as people go around the tour. The SBS coverage has been compelling and very insightful, and Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin always find something interesting to inform the general viewer about what is going on in the race.

I would like to congratulate Cadel Evans. He is a magnificent Australian and his is really a fantastic achievement and one we should all be very proud of.