Belgian Philippe Gilbert won the World Championship men’s road race in the Netherlands on Sunday after launching a trademark attack on the final ascent of the Cauberg climb.
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No-one could match Gilbert’s devastating acceleration on the decisive ascent from which Gilbert has previously won two editions of the Amstel Gold Race.
Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen took silver, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde rounding out the podium with bronze.
Britain’s top finisher was Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who completed his first World Championships in 19th spot after staying within the lead group. It was a strong ride that confirms he will not be out of place with a move to a WorldTour squad in 2013.
How it happened
Last year’s world champion Mark Cavendish and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins led out the day’s racing for Great Britain out of Maastricht.
Rather than swinging off early, Cavendish continued to play a big part in the first 100 kilometres of the race, sitting on the front of the bunch for large stretches to help mark the time gap of an 11-man escape group which broke free after 40 kilometres.
The break had things their own way until 113km to go, when Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain) and Vuelta a Espana stage winner Steve Cummings (Great Britain) attacked from the bunch. They were joined by seven other riders to form a chase.
Subsequently, they and a group of further chasers including Tour of Britian winner Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Great Britain) bridged the gap to form a group of around 30 riders. A crash in the bunch aided the time gap for a short while until there was a regrouping in the final two laps of the 16.1km race circuit.
Cavendish withdrew from the race with 100km to go, his work done. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome also later withdrew from the race after working for their British team-mates.
Andrew Talansky (USA) attacked with 25 kilometres to go, and was followed closely by British national champion Ian Stannard. The pair soon built up a lead of around 15 seconds on the bunch before the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg.
Stannard then left Talansky on the Cauberg as the favourites moved to the front of the remnants of the peloton blown apart by the pace on the climb. Tiernan-Locke was safely in there, sat behind Vincenzo Nibali (Italy), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) and Alejandre Valverde (Spain). Tom Boonen (Belgium), Peter Sagan (Slovakia), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), John Degenkolb (Germany), Thomas Voeckler (France) and Daniel Martin (Ireland) were in there too.
Spain and Belgium were both well represented in the lead group of 48 riders, whilst Britain was left with just Stannard and Tiernan-Locke.
Alberto Contador (Spain) upped the pace of the bunch prior to the final ascent of the Cauberg. A succession of nations then put a rider up the front.
On the final ascent of the Cauberg, Gilbert launched a trademark attack distancing all of his rivals. Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), Boasson Hagen and Valverde tried to chase him down, but none was willing to tow the other two up to Gilbert.
Gilbert coolly looked behind, realised the size of the gap and allowed himself time to punch the air and raise his hands in victory before crossing the line.
Having dominated the one-day classics in 2011, Gilbert has had comparatively slim picking in 2012. He fired a warning shot to his rivals at the Vuelta a Espana, taking two stage wins. But he kept his best until the Worlds, and was untouchable in the finale when it really mattered.
Road World Championships 2012: Men’s road race, 269km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) at 4 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) at 5 secs
4. John Degenkolb (Germany)
5. Lars Boom (Netherlands)
6. Allan Davis (Australia)
7. Thomas Voeckler (France)
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
9. Sergio Henao (Colombia)
10. Oscar Freire (Spain) at same time
19. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Great Britain) at 5 secs
36. Ian Stannard (Great Britain) at 53 secs
60. Ben Swift (Great Britain) at 2-21
70. Steve Cummings (Great Britain) at 2-12
88. Luke Rowe (Great Britain) at 5-46
DNF Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)
DNF Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)
DNF Chris Froome (Great Britain)
DNF Alex Dowsett (Great Britain)
Tim Duggan and Alex Howes of the USA in the break
Mark Cavendish chases the escape group
Ian Stannard and Andrew Talansky attack
Philippe Gilbert’s decisive attack on the Cauberg
Philippe Gilbert wins
Edvald Boasson Hagen (second), Philippe Gilbert (winner) and Alejandro Valverde (third)
Road World Championships 2012: Coverage index