PARIS — Cadel Evans won the Tour de France today, becoming the first Australian to take victory in the world’s biggest cycle race.

The 34-year-old Evans crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees today at the end of the largely ceremonial final stage. He had virtually secured the title with his ride in the time trial in Grenoble a day earlier.

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg finished second overall for the third straight year, with brother Frank Schleck in third.

The 21st and final stage – the most prestigious for the race’s sprinters – was won by Britain’s Mark Cavendish for the third year in a row, despite being forced to change his bike on the Champs-Elysees. He also took the green jersey for the overall best sprinter.

Second place went to Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway, and third to Andre Greipel of Germany.

Wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, BMC team leader Evans celebrated with a glass of champagne today 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 in 21 stages over the past three weeks, for a total of 2,132 miles.

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.

Seven or eight riders were still in competition for the victory during the climbs of the Alps in the final week. Evans looked at one point to have lost his chance, when Andy Schleck rode away from the others on the Galibier pass. But he held his nerve and finished well ahead of Schleck in the time-trial on Saturday to guarantee his victory.

The polka-dot jersey awarded to the best climber was taken by Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain, while the best young rider was Pierre Rolland of France.

Before setting off today, 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 Boasson Hagen won two stages each in this year’s race.