Thor Hushovd edged a dramatic bunch sprint to win the men’s Road World Championships in Geelong, Australia.
Belgian Philippe Gilbert, aggressive throughout, launched a third and final attack in the closing stages but was reeled in with 2.5km to go.
And that left Norwegian Hushovd to charge clear on the finishing straight to claim gold in six hours, 21.49 seconds ahead of Denmark’s Matti Breschel and Australia’s Allan Davis.
“It’s hard to understand I’ve won the Worlds. It’s a dream, it’s unreal,” said Hushovd, who won the Tour de France’s green jersey in 2005 and 2009.
“Now I will just enjoy this, try to enjoy every day… just look at the jersey because I had this chance and maybe it won’t happen again.”
There was disappointment for Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, one of 79 of the event’s 178 starters who failed to last the distance on the 257.2km race. Team-mates David Millar and Jeremy Hunt also withdrew.
“It was too hard for him [Cavendish],” said Great Britain’s performance director David Brailsford.
“It was a real punchy, hard, grind-it-out type of course, he did not have the legs today. Thor does well on these courses, we have seen it before and Mark is more of a pure sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini won the women’s road race – but there was heartache for Great Britain’s Olympic champion Nicole Cooke.
Cooke and Germany’s Judith Arndt escaped on the final lap but were both was caught just inches from the line, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Marianne Vos of the Netherlands claimed silver, while Emma Johansson of Sweden completed the podium.