I wish to associate myself and all the cycling enthusiasts in my electorate of Throsby with the statements of congratulations to Cadel Evans.
Cadel was born in the Northern Territory town of Katherine. He later spent time growing up in northern New South Wales and in Victoria—so many Australian towns can claim a little bit of Cadel as a part of their history and culture.
His early years were not without their difficulties. At the age of seven Cadel was injured in an accident involving a horse and spent a week in an induced coma.
A love of bike riding came early in life, as it does for many Aussie kids, with the ubiquitous BMX bike. However, for Cadel this love of cycling proved to be an enduring affair that would take him from the Australian Institute of Sport to the Champs Elysees. After a talented junior career as a mountain bike rider, including podium finishes in two under-23 world championships, Cadel made the switch to road racing.
Perhaps the solitude of competitive cycling appealed to the only child of Helen and Paul. Cadel's story highlights two necessary elements common to all who strive for excellence—passion and determination. To quote Cadel's own words:
I worked at it and, over the years, my cycling improved. It's what happens to anyone when they're passionate about what they do. You ride your bike and enjoy it. Ride more, get better at it. Ride more, perfect your method … It's a natural progression when you're having fun.
This simple philosophy—passion, practice and the quest for perfection—has resulted in an impressive list of achievements.
Le Tour De France
Cadel announced his arrival in his first Tour de France in 2005, by winning eighth place in the overall classification—the first Australian since the famous Phil Anderson to finish in the top 10.
Many Australians heard the name of Cadel Evans first in 2008, where the absence of the defending champion Alberto Contador led many observers to declare that this young Australian was favourite to win the event.
Cadel finished second overall, which was an amazing achievement by any reckoning, but it was clear that the weight of the nation's expectation was a heavy burden on this young athlete.
Australians are used to sporting success and our athletes regularly punch above their weight on the world stage. Sometimes we expect too much and fail to recognise the quality of the achievement, irrespective of the result.
I remember Cadel apologising to Australians for not being good enough to win the 2008 and thinking, 'You are apologising to us when we should be congratulating you.'
In 2009, Cadel won the road race and the men's world championship. Unfortunately, injury derailed his 2010 campaign in France. But it would be Cadel's year in 2011.
Mondane to Alpe d'Huez
While many of us watched the penultimate stage that delivered Cadel an unassailable lead over his closest rivals, it was the day before that stands out in my memory.
I remember that last mountain stage, with the Schleck brothers leading the gruelling climb from the Mondane to the Alpe d'Huez. Cadel's assault on Andy Schleck's lead was frustrated by mechanical difficulties. It was hard not to remember 2008. Would this be another case of so close yet so far?
But no-one told Cadel Evans this. He fought back, he refused to submit and he pushed his body and his bike to breaking point and beyond.
Cadel finished that stage within striking distance of Andy Schleck. The next stage was his pet event, the time trial—and, as they say, the rest is history.
That day's riding was the epitome of courage in the face of adversity. Those champion qualities on display made for an experience that was simply exhilarating and quite unforgettable.
It took a few more days before Cadel was crowned overall winner of Le Tour.
But for mine, Cadel won it on that day on the road to Alpe d'Huez, when he displayed the grit, the determination and the courage to play the hand he was dealt, despite the circumstances.
Some may say he played and won the Australian way. I certainly do.
Congratulations, Cadel Evans.
Speech to Parliament 21 September 2011 - On Indulgence - Mr Cadel Evans.