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Crocodile Tears

I'd feel a bit remiss if I didn't offer my condolences to Cadel Evans and the many, many fans Down Under. Second place is rarely as heartbreaking as this must be. I'd rate this the toughest loss by a GC contender at the Tour since, oh, Laurent Fignon, if you factor in the narrow loss, didn't-really-deserve-to-lose-idness, and dwindling number of future chances. I'm not a fan, but Cadel Evans has had a superb career, coming out of the mountainbiking world, into brief success before sinking into the T-Mobile abyss, then finally putting himself on track with (as in, notwithstanding) a marginal team. He's a top athlete who did everything he could to win the world's greatest sporting event, but found himself outgunned by a truly clever CSC team and its own deserving/persevering winner.

Evans seems to be taking it OK, enjoying the upside of finishing on another Tour podium like it's nothing to be embarassed about... as he should. But I was struck by something at CyclingNews that made me feel for his fans back home in Oz:

Why Evans couldn't win yesterday

Quite a few people were left wondering why champagne was given out before the race had ended. Why it was said after the time trial that the race was lost for Evans. And why Evans didn't attack the celebrating Danish team on Sunday. The answer is a mix of tradition and race tactics.

When I read this, I didn't take it as CN explaining cycling etiquette to newcomers -- pretty much unheard of for them -- I read it as CN answering the pleas of heartbroken fans [however worldly it seems, CN is based in Australia]. For all its contributions to the sport, Australia is still after its first final maillot jaune, and Evans' loss probably feels frustrating to his nation of fans. Again, there's not even an ounce of shame in this loss (save for Lotto management), but if I were Australian, I'd probably have been waiting for this chance ever since LeMond and Fignon aced out Phil Anderson.

On the plus side, this is the nation that gave us "HTFU" and massive, massive beer cans, so I'm guessing people are handling the matter with customary good cheer.