By Gregor Brown in Paris
Belgium's Wim Vansevenant took his own place in history Sunday by winning the lanterne rouge of last rider in the Tour de France overall classification for the third time in a row. The Silence-Lotto rider was well on the other end of the results sheet from his team-mate Cadel Evans.
"I am happy with the lanterne rouge, it will be remembered well after my career ends. I have made a little bit of history. I hope it inspires some other riders, like Lance Armstrong did winning the Tour seven times," Vansevenant, said following Saturday's time trial to Saint Amand Montrond.
The lanterne rouge is an official award given to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place overall – it is similar to the Giro d'Italia's numero nero. Though there is no prize, Vansevenant notoriety will earn him more money in post-Tour criteriums. He bettered three riders who have two lanterne rouge: Belgium's Daniel Masson, France's Jimmy Casper and Austria's Gerhard Schönbacher.
Saturday's time trial in Saint Amand Montrond decided the lanterne rouge competition along with the other classification battles. Vansevenant battled with Austrian Bernard Eisel, who had lost 14'45" in stage 19 and moved into last by 42 seconds, while his team captain battled for the race leaders maillot jaune.
"I did not think to fall back with Eisel in stage 19 to save the lantern rouge because I was glad to be in the peloton – it was going hard. You saw that Flecha and Wegmann were outside the time cut. I know that you can't risk it on stages like that."
The time loss meant that Vansevenant had to keep a close eye on Eisel for the 53-kilometre time trial.
"I talked to Eisel before the time trial and he said I could have it. It was not a problem during the time trial – I rode very easy until the first time check. I heard I was one minute down and then started to ride at a normal pace."
Vansevenant wasn't even last on the day, and finished 142nd. But he was 1'35" behind Eisel and moved back into last overall, but despite this his time trial wasn't easy.
"It was not that I was here on vacation, my shirt was still wet with sweat – I had to work. It was no problem to be within the time cut for the time trial, but I had studied it before hand. If Eisel would have gone for it I would have beat him on the Champs Élysées."
Evans, second overall, was happy for his team-mate. "We wanted to be first and last in the overall. When I head that Wim had last place I said there was one guy who'd reached his goal," said Evans.