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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8666

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (12:14): I rise today to recognise Cadel Evans's outstanding achievement in winning the 2011 Tour de France. For most professional cyclists, winning the Tour de France means reaching the pinnacle of their sport. It is the equivalent of a footballer winning either a soccer or rugby World Cup, a tennis player winning Wimbledon or a golfer securing the US Masters. This year's Tour de France was held over 21 stages and covered 3,430 kilometres. Many of these stages involved extremely steep climbs and challenged the endurance and strength of all competitors.

Prior to this year's event Cadel had already established himself as an elite cyclist. In his early years he was a mountain bike rider, who won silver medals at the 1997 and 1999 under-23 world championships and bronze medals at the 1995 junior world road time trial championship and junior world mountain bike championship. In the summer of 2000, Cadel switched to road cycling full time but it was in 2006 that he arrived on the world stage of the Tour de France. In 2006 he finished fourth in the tour, which in itself was an outstanding achievement. In 2007 he went two better when he finished second and was named Australian cyclist of the year. The following year, 2008, he again finished runner-up in the Tour—a major achievement in its own right but still just short of cycling's major prize.

After the 2007 and 2008 results his supporters hoped that 2009 would be his year. However, despite winning the 2009 men's world championship road race in Mendrisio, Switzerland, he struggled in the Tour later that year. It was a tremendously disappointing result which was compounded in 2010 when he again finished well down the field. As a result, in the lead-up to the 2011 event there were some detractors. Despite his finishing runner-up on two previous occasions, some experts wondered whether Cadel was past his best. At 34 years of age some experts questioned whether Cadel was too old to win one of the planet's premier sporting events. But he stared down his detractors with a display of cycling which is now part of Tour de France history. Indeed, those who watched Cadel Evans over the final days of this year's Tour were treated to some of the most outstanding cycling in Australia's history.

On the Friday evening Australian time, Cadel overcame mechanical failure to stay within reach of the leaders and set up an absorbing match race in Saturday's time trial. Starting the last full day of competition almost one minute behind the leader, Cadel showed the strength and determination which have been the hallmark of his cycling career. He finished second overall in the time trial to smash his opponents and secure a remarkable victory. Cadel's victory will inspire many of the current crop of young cyclists as they make their journey through the international ranks. He has demonstrated that if you have the focus and commitment you can win a Tour de France, regardless of where you are from. The victory is also a boon for cycling in general across Australia. Whether it is kids riding to school, adults riding on a Sunday or competitors seeking to improve their results, Cadel Evans's achievements are certainly an inspiration to all cyclists. As someone who cycles regularly, it was of great interest to me to see Cadel Evans's victory and the impact on the sport.

Of course there will be ongoing debate from the sporting pundits over whether Cadel Evans's victory is Australia's greatest sporting achievement.. He is up against some strong competition from the likes of Bradman, Cathy Freeman, John Bertrand and the crew of Australia II and a host of other champions. But the fact is that victory in the Tour de France is considered in the context of a huge international event.

The Coffs Coast area of my electorate has a history of association with some of Australia's most elite sports men and women. Triathlete Emma Moffatt, rugby league player Greg Inglis and cricketer Philip Hughes are three of the more well-known athletes who are currently competing at the top level of their respective sports. But there are many others who have once called the Coffs Coast their home before pursuing their international careers, and I am proud to say that Cadel Evans is one of those great sports people. In the 1980s he attended Woolgoolga High School and worked at the local cycling shop, Woody's Wheels. Cadel's father, Paul, still lives at Corindi just north of Woolgoolga. One can only try to comprehend how proud he must have felt when he watched his son win the yellow jersey on that Saturday night and become the first Australian to win cycling's Holy Grail. Although Cadel moved from our area when he was quite young, many local people still remember the promising young cyclist who enjoyed what our region had to offer. But, regardless of whether they met him or not, the fact is that north coast residents have all been thrilled by Cadel Evans's achievements. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate Cadel on winning the Tour de France. As much as the victory is his to savour, I know that many of my constituents celebrate in connection with his great effort on the world stage.