Mark Cavendish became the first Briton to pull on the rainbow jersey since Tom Simpson in 1965 after a perfectly-timed sprint to win the world road race in Copenhagen.
The Manx Missile launched his bid for the line with 150m to go to claim gold by a wheel from Australia’s Matt Goss, while Germany’s Andre Greipel finished third.
Victory caps a sensational year for the 26-year-old Cavendish, who became the first Brit to win the Tour de France’s green jersey in July after winning five stages, taking his overall tally to 20.
“It was incredible, we took it on from start to finish,” said Cavendish. “I can’t believe it. We knew three years ago when this course was announced – we put a plan together to put these best guys together.
“It’s been three years in the making and you just saw they rode incredibly. I’m just so proud. The biggest goal next year [is the Olympics] and I hope we can make it a world and Olympic double.”
Great Britain arrived in Denmark with eight riders and, with David Millar acting as road capain, controlled the 266km race from the first pedal stroke.
A seven-man break gained an advantage of approximately seven minutes after 100km, before a separate five-man group went clear 50km later.
Chris Froome, Steve Cummings and Jeremy Hunt kept tabs on the gap for Great Britain, reeling in the escapees with two laps remaining, leaving Bradley Wiggins, who won time trial silver earlier in the week, to move to the front as Cavendish’s leadout train took shape.
Ian Stannard then took up pace-setting duties at the head of the peloton as it swung around the final corner but Cavendish had lost Geraint Thomas’ wheel after being boxed in.
Thomas, who may also lead out Cavendish at Team Sky next year if the sprinter signs as expected, swung to the side of the road to find Cavendish, who moved through a gap on the right before launching his trademark sprint on the uphill finish.
“At the start of the season I said I had two goals: the green jersey and the rainbow stripes,” added Cavendish. “Now I get to wear the rainbow bands for the next year.
“The team all rode out of their skins today. It’s a shame they can’t wear the world champion’s jersey as well. I’ve won the jersey, but I just put the finishing touches to the mission.
“The Olympics is different, because you’ve only got five riders and the course next year will be more difficult than here – but I’m going to prepare as best as I can for it.”
1) Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) – 5:40.27 hours
2) Matt Goss (Australia) – same time
3) Andre Greipel (Germany)
4) Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)
5) Jurgen Roelandts (Belgium)
6) Romain Feillu (France)
7) Borut Bozic (Slovenia)
8] Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
9) Oscar Freire (Spain)
10) Tyler Farrar (USA)
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Crash hinders Britain in women’s road race
Meanwhile, a crash in the closing stages of Saturday’s women’s road race dashed Great Britain’s medal hopes, with Nicole Cooke finishing fourth and Lizzie Armitstead seventh.
“I’m gutted. I felt good but got caught behind the crash,” said Armitstead, who was held up by the incident on the finishing straight. “I felt so good all day but that’s cycling, I guess.
“A girl came down in front of me after the girls had set me up perfectly, it’s such a stupid way to lose it.”
Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini won the sprint to defend her world title ahead of the Netherlands’ Marianne Vos, who finished second for the fifth successive year, while Ina Teutenberg of Germany completed the podium.
Cooke added: “We were all riding for Lizzie. She’d been doing so well and I was up there waiting for her to come up to me, but I never saw her.
“So in the end I had to just do my sprint. When we went around the last corner I thought: ‘Well, I’m in a race-winning position, Lizzie’s either on my wheel or she’s not.’
“We’re all pretty honest in the team and we want someone from the team to win, it doesn’t matter who in the end. If she saw me in that position she’d want me to go for it, positions like that don’t just come along.”
1) Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) – 3:21.28 hours
2) Marianne Vos (Netherlands) – same time
3) Ina Teutenberg (Germany)
4) Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)
5) Julia Martisova (Russia)
6) Chloe Hosking (Australia)
7) Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)
8] Ludivine Henrion (Belgium)
9) Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)
10) Aude Biannic (France)