IT was in the unlikely setting of Tasmania's Mount Wellington that Phil Liggett, one of the world's top cycling commentators, witnessed a rider with the heart required to win the toughest endurance event on the planet.
Since that day in 1998, Liggett has believed Australia's Cadel Evans would become a Tour de France champion.
"I was in a team car following Neil Stephens, a stage winner in France, on the climb to the top of Mount Wellington when Evans not only came up alongside him, but simply rode off Stephens's back wheel and away into the distance," Liggett told The Australian last night.
"The manner in which he did it - against a then seasoned Euro-pean based professional - simply blew me away. And to think he was still concentrating on a career as a mountain biker."
Evans has captured Australia's heart, with broadcaster SBS announcing record viewing figures - 100 per cent increases year-on-year since 2009.