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Sunday 24 July 2011

Wow, two historic things to celebrate today - Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France and an Intergovernmental Agreement to fund a forestry solution.

Over the past three weeks we've been getting rather excited about the Tour de France & began recording the night-time live races & watching them the following day. Bronte used to be an avid cyclist & - while not in his league - I too enoyed cycling, enough to appreciate the supreme athleticism of the contestants. As well as the racing, the scenery was fabulous - high Alpine passes, Chateau perched on clifftops and rustic picturesque villages set in a pastoral quilt of greenery. Of course, our interest and excitement reached new heights when it became clear that Cadel had a chance to win the overall race - plus I felt some British pride in Mark Cavendish winning several stages & taking the green jersey for best sprinter (although I believe that will be decided finally in the race into Paris tomorrow). Yesterday morning we watched a recording of the second stage in the Alps, terminating in an awe-inspiring switchback climp up Alp d'Huez. Cadel had trouble with his bike, having to switch to a new one mid-race & despite this fought back bravely to come in alongside his nearest rivals (then sitting at 1 & 2 in the overall classification): the Schleck brothers, Andy & Frank.

This morning we got up to watch the time trial - the penultimate stage & the decider. Cadel was over a minute behind Andy Schleck in the rankings & we honestly did not fancy his chances - Andy Schleck seemed so composed & confident. However, Cadel put in a magnificent effort coming in over two minutes quicker than Andy & winning the 2011 Tour de France. We were thrilled, particularly as he seems such a pleasant, humble chap (who incidentally looks a little like a worried gnome). I'm sure he will be a fantastic ambassador for Australia around the world, more so than many of our other sportsmen, who are so often full of their own importance. Cadel Evans is such a Welsh name, it would be interesting to know where his family hail from. I've adopted him as an honorary Brit as well as a true-blue Aussie.

The other matter for celebration is the aforesaid forestry announcement made today jointly by the state and federal governments. We've yet to receive feedback on the 'Memorandum of Understanding' from Environment Tas & the other ENGO negotiators, but from a quick read through it seems highly positive. It paves the way for a virtually immediate protection of 430,000Ha of high conservation value native forest, with the likely protection of the full 572,000Ha reserve ask within a year, plus a $276m assistance package to provide exit mechanisms and assistance for forestry workers, plus the development of a regional development strategy to diversity Tasmania's rural economy.