Good Evans above

NORTHERN Beaches cycling enthusiasts are preparing to celebrate a Tour de France victory tomorrow night as Cadel Evans becomes the first Australian to finish the world famous race on the podium.

Evans, who spent childhood years at Upper Corindi where his father, Paul, still lives, is second overall in the race.

And with just two days left, he seems assured of a spot among the top placegetters in Paris late tomorrow. A good result in tonight's time trial and he could even be the winner.

Evans is a former world champion mountain bike rider and a was regular at Woodsey's Wheels Bike Shop in Woolgoolga, where owner Mal Pitts remembers him.

"I didn't own the shop then, but we all remember him," said Mr Pitts.

"I think we always knew then he was a world champion and his dad Paul must be so proud."

Evans yesterday admitted he had always harboured doubts over the sporadic performances of Denmark's Michael Rasmussen, who was thrown out of the Tour on Wednesday.

And in the the wake of Rasmussen's exit, Spaniard Alberto Contador took over the race lead.

As of last night, Evans remained 1min 53sec off the Spaniard's pace, with American Levi Leipheimer in third place.

Tonight's time trial over 55.5km from Cognac to Angouleme will be decisive for all three riders, who are bidding to pull on the yellow jersey.

Evans told reporters the performances of Rasmussen - whom he used to race against in mountain biking - had always intrigued him.

"I first started racing against him in March of 1996 in California, and on that occasion I couldn't go near him," Evans said.

"For three years I raced against him in mountain bikes, and I always finished ahead of him.

"And then he won the mountain bike world championship title in 1999, in the elite category. And he rode away from everyone."

Evans said he had doubts about the Dane's progression then, and also at the Tour de France.

"It's strange, his progression. It's just observations I have. What can you say?" added Evans.

"I really don't know the truth behind it all. Just because someone has a good performance you should never accuse them of cheating because it could be!the result of hard work and good training. But I see what I see.

"I've been beaten by cheats before and I'll be beaten by them again, I'm sure of that, but I'm not worried about it."

But tonight and tomorrow his main concern will be catching Contador.

And tomorrow evening, on a warm Parisian afternoon, the kid who dared to be champion just might become the best we have ever seen.



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