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Australia's Cadel Evans poised to win Tour de France as final stage arrives in Paris
PARIS (AP) ' Cadel Evans is set to become the first Australian winner of the Tour de France as the riders reach the Champs-Elysees on the largely ceremonial ride to the finish.
Wearing the leader's yellow jersey, the BMC team leader celebrated with a glass of champagne Sunday as the riders made their way into Paris on the 59-mile ride from the southeastern suburb of Creteil.
After starting the stage on a specially painted yellow bike, Evans switched back to his normal bike. The team said he wanted to finish on the bike that he'd won the race on.
The riders have competed over the past three weeks through 21 stages covering 2,132 miles.
Evans, a two-time runner-up, answered his critics Saturday by seizing the race lead from Andy Schleck of Luxembourg in the final time trial.
Before setting off on Sunday, riders removed their helmets and observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the attacks in Norway.
"When this kind of thing happens, everybody forgets about the sport," said Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd. "It's not even important in comparison.
"It's quite nice that everybody thinks of us. We're a small country ... unfortunately this can happen anywhere."
Hushovd and his compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen won two stages each in this year's race.
Although the winner of the race is already decided, there should still be some drama. Sprinters are vying to win the prestigious final stage, and the winner of the green jersey for best sprinter of the race is not yet decided, although Britain's Mark Cavendish is favored to retain his lead.
With the victory, Evans becomes the oldest winner of the Tour since World War II, narrowly eclipsing Gino Bartali of Italy ' who was also 34 but slightly younger ' when he won in 1948. The all-time record was set by 36-year-old Firmin Lambot of Belgium in 1922.
This year's edition of the 108-year-old race featured one of the most exciting finishes in years ' and without a serious doping blight that marred past Tours.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.