Tour agony for Cadel

MUM Helen Cocks made a secret trip to France to meet her son Cadel Evans - but the surprise turned once again to disappointment as the Corindi cyclist narrowly missed out becoming the first Australian to win the Tour de France.

And it was a consoling hug she offered when their long journeys converged in Saint-Amond-Montrond after his dream of becoming the first Australian to win cycling's greatest race all but evaporated for another year.

"I am so proud of him, he's wonderful," Mrs Cocks said.

"It's what you put in that is important, that's what I think anyway.

"I don't have to tell him that. I think he thinks the same way too.

"I don't know how he does it, but there's always next year."

Determined to ensure Evans was not distracted, his mother kept her trip secret until after Evans had completed the 53km individual time trial.

Following Saturday's penultimate stage, won by Gerolsteiner rider Stefan Schumacher of Germany, Evans was left wondering what might have been.

He started the day needing to overhaul a 94-second deficit to leader Carlos Sastre of Spain, but only managed to close the gap to 65 seconds.

The result effectively sealed Evans' fate to be runner-up for a second straight year.

"To come in two times second is a bit bitter," Evans said.

"I will be back next year. I think I have three or four good Tours left in me."

It was an unforgiving outcome for the diminutive 31-year-old, who had claimed the race leader's yellow jersey a day after an horrific crash left him dazed and nursing an injured shoulder on the ninth stage.

"I just have to be happy that I could continue," Evans said.

"Ten seconds later I came to and went, 'oh that's right, I'm in the race, I have to get going'.

"Physically maybe it cost me five, 10 per cent in power, but I tried to make up that with a mental thing.

"Then emotionally as a sporting experience to bounce back the next day and get the yellow jersey was quite something."

But Evan's Silence-Lotto team struggled against the collective power of Sastre's CSC outfit, which routinely called on three riders - Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck - to step up the pace in a bid to tire Evans out.

The tactic was telling in the Alps, where strong climber Sastre gained the ascendancy over Evans.

"That was, in theory, our biggest room for improvement," Evans said.

"They had a budget two, two-and-a-half times ours, so of course they can buy better quality riders.

"CSC had the power in this tour. Every time I looked around I saw CSC riders ... they did a great job."

Evans was in a similar situation last year, when he needed to make up one minute and 50 seconds on Spaniard Alberto Contador on the second-to-last stage time trial and fell just 23 seconds short.

This time, he admitted he received a "bit of a scare" when intermediate time checks at the 18km mark showed he had managed to take only eight seconds off Sastre's lead.

Evans gave his all over the second half of the race but, having covered more than 3000km, he did not have the energy to give any more and was completely spent when he crossed the finish line.

"I rode a really good time trial and some other people just had an incredible, incredible time trial ... what can I do?" a tired Evans told reporters.

"Last year was a little bit more pressure because it was a slimmer chance of winning, but this year I thought, 'I'm looking forward to this time trial.'

"I went in really well and the team, everyone, was calm and not nervous. We came here to do a good race, we did our best and we got beaten."

He needed to close down a 94-second gap on race leader Carlos Sastre to give himself a realistic chance of victory, but managed only to squeeze the margin down to 65 seconds.

Nevertheless, Mrs Cocks was glad she made the last-minute decision to travel.

"It felt good to do that, it's good to be here," she said.

"It's wonderful to see him ... always he wants to win because that's what people want, but I think he's just happy he's been able to make cycling more popular in Australia and it is so wonderful that they're supporting him."

Australian fans were out in force to cheer him on and Evans was grateful.

"Thanks for coming," he said.

Also at the finish line was Evans' wife, Chiara, who was so nervous during the time trial, she could not watch any of the coverage.

"Now I'm relaxed and relieved that everything is finished," she said afterwards.

"It doesn't matter that he's second, third, tenth, first because he's always a winner to me."

She admitted she felt distressed when she saw how exhausted her husband at the finish.

"I felt very bad at that time for him because he looked awful," she said.

"The worst part of the Tour was seeing him today after the race so empty of energy.

"I think you really need to love this sport to do that and he's very determined."

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