With the crashes of the first half of the race behind him, Cadel Evans finally ascended to the top step of the Tour de France podium after winning the 2011 edition. Evans had twice finished second. It was a tour of firsts.
Evans became the first Australian to win the world's most prestigious bike race, and the brothers Schleck, Andy and Frank, became the first siblings to share the podium, taking second and third, respectively. In an electrifying tour, Evans pulled out the win on the second to last day in the individual time trial, soundly beating both Schlecks to win the three-week race by over a minute and a half. A plucky Frenchman, Thomas Voeckler, had given French fans hope for ten days as he tenaciously clung to the overall lead, only to finally succumb on the grueling climbs of the Alps. He finished fourth overall. Defending champion Alberto Contador, perhaps weakened by his May victory in the exhausting three-week Tour of Italy, or Giro d'Italia, could do no better than fifth. Through it all, the beauty of France shone through. The Big Picture offers special thanks to Veeral Patel for making his photographs available. -- Lane Turner (34 photos total)