Gilbert wins world championship in Valkenburg

Belgian rides away on the Cauberg

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) pulled on cycling's rainbow jersey with a perfectly-timed attack to win the 2012 world championships in Valkenburg, Holland. The Belgian attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg, distancing a select group of pre-race favourites. Edvald Boasson Hagan (Norway) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) rounded out the medals, while defending champion Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) abandoned after working for his team in the first half of the race.

The most decisive move of the race predictably came on the Cauberg, where Italy, through Luca Paolini, had looked to set up Vincenzo Nibali. The Italians' effort, however, ran out of steam, with Gilbert attacking in the big ring as his rivals struggled on the climb's punishing slope.

Although Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation), Boasson Hagen and Valverde attempted to organise a chase they were unable to reel in the unstoppable Gilbert, who in the space of a matter of weeks has transformed his below-par season into a triumph.

"It's hard to realize what happened. The Belgians did outstanding work. We deserved to win this title," the winner said at the finish. "I was placed excellently [on the climb]. I looked back quickly and then took off. I still don't realize that I am world champion."

While Belgium celebrated its first rainbow jersey since Tom Boonen's win in 2005, Valverde and Spain were left licking their wounds having proved the most aggressive team in the race. Their stellar line-up of stars initiated each major attack in the race but Valverde, who has now been on the podium four times, could only manage third.

Norway's Boasson Hagen, who clipped away from Valverde inside the final 500 meters, praised both his teammates and the eventual winner. "It was very good to get second place, but we were close to gold," said Boasson Hagen. "Gabba (Gabriel Rasch, ed.) and Lars Petter (Nordhaug) rode well and did a great job. I am very grateful. Gilbert was very strong and there was nothing I could do."

Early encounters

After a week of racing the 2012 world championship’s final event began almost as if the 2011 race had never ended: with Mark Cavendish and his Great Britain team controlling the peloton in the early stages. Wearing dossard number 1, Cavendish had ruled himself out of an ever-expanding list of favourites due to the climbing incorporated in this year’s race. The 267km course featured a 105km jaunt through southern Limburg before tackling ten laps of the now familiar circuit course with the infamous Cauberg's crest situated 1.7 kilometres from the finish.

Although early attacks rained down, it was Great Britain who marshalled the peloton. Cavendish, along with Alex Dowsett, eventually allowed a group of Pablo Lastras (Spain), Dario Cataldo (Italy), Timothy Duggan and Alex Howes (USA), Jerome Coppel (France), Winner Anacona (Colombia), Luka Mezgec (Slovenia), Vladimir Isaichev (Russia), Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine), Fabricio Ferrari (Uruguay) and Gatis Smukulis (Latvia) to escape but the defending nation continued their pace setting, despite the pressure being on the shoulders of the home nation.

By the time the race came to life and reached the Cauberg for the first time the gap was at a steady 3:28. It was there that the Spanish played their first of many cards. Despite an earlier crash for Oscar Freire, the Armada looked an impregnable team of guile and diversity. The only question appeared to be whether they had too many leaders. But it was one of their most reliable workhorses in Juan Antonio Flecha who lit the fuse, sparking a move that included Stephen Cummings (Great Britain) Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy), Gianni Meersman (Belgium), Michael Matthews (Australia), Maxime Bouet (France),Michael Schär (Switzerland), Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan), and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark).

It sparked a reaction from Belgium – with their two leaders in Gilbert and Boonen – sheltered behind a line of blue jersey. The increase in pace saw Cavendish retire but just as one world champion pulled out, one candidate for today’s victory, Alberto Contador, attacked.

The Spaniard used the Cauberg to ignite panic in the bunch, with Robert Gesink and Thomas Voeckler among a handful of riders who were able to keep pace.

Merging powers

Eventually Flecha’s group caught the leaders, before Contador and his collaborators joined too. It created a group of nearly thirty riders with Pablo Lastras, Alberto Contador and Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain), Dario Cataldo, Rinaldo Nocentini, Marco Marcato and Diego Ulissi (Italy), Timothy Duggan and Alex Howes (USA), Jerome Coppel, Maxime Bouet and Thomas Voeckler (France), Winner Anacona (Colombia), Luka Mezgec (Slovenia), Vladimir Isaichev (Russia), Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine), Fabricio Ferrari (Uruguay), Gatis Smukulis (Latvia),Stephen Cummings and Jon Tiernan-Locke (Great Britain), Gianni Meersman and Bjorn Leukemans (Belgium), Michael Matthews (Australia), Michael Schär and Michael Albasini (Switzerland), Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan), Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) plus the host nation's Koen De Kort and Robert Gesink (Netherlands).

Despite each nation having two riders in the break, Belgium joined forces with the Dutch at the head of the peloton in limiting the danger to a minute. The Spanish, with Flecha and Lastras, and the French, berated into working by Voeckler, continued to push at the head of affairs but with so many stragglers and riders unwilling to work the move was always doomed.

Lastras and Bouet were used up on the 7th lap of the Cauberg but a crash in the peloton split the field. It ended a number of riders’ chances, saw Peter Sagan lose almost his entire team and reduced the bunch to 57 riders.

As the break neared two laps to go Flecha continued his work on the front but by now the escape was only 36 seconds clear. An attack from Fabian Wegmann (Germany) drew the leaders ever closer and saw a number of the early escapees even caught. By the time they crested the Cauberg and reached the finish line the escape had been neutralised.

But a definitive selection had yet to be made as unlike Valkenburg’s 1998 Worlds, when the skies opened up and made the race, this year’s light showers had no such effect with approximately 70 riders still in contention.

Andrew Talansky (USA) attempted to make sure his team’s earlier work wasn’t lost in vain and attacked on the Bemelerberg and when Ian Stannard (Great Britain) lurched across it looked as though the favourites could use the tandem as a spring board.

A combination of tired legs and a headwind scrapped any chance and on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg tactics gave way to frustration. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) attacked but his accelerations were shut down almost immediately, the soon to be Astana rider gesticulating for others to help him make the race more aggressive.

With Talansky and then Stannard caught, the race headed for the final lap, with a firm realisation that if the final climb up the Cauberg could not split the field then a sprint finish would decide this year’s race.

Inside the final 10 kilometres positioning became paramount. Spain moved Valverde and Rodriguez near the head of the field, as Belgium, Italy, and the outgunned Norway did the same. Alberto Contador and Samuel Sanchez took two long pulls on the front before Luca Paolini took charge, leading the peloton on the lower slopes of the Cauberg.

Moments before it had been Nibali who set the pace on the approach, a tactic that cost the Italian as he ran out of gas on the climb. At one point, with four Belgians on the Italian’s rear wheel, it looked as though a clean sweep could occur but Gilbert’s aggression and turn of speed was too much.

Full Results
1 Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) 6:10:41  
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) 0:00:04  
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) 0:00:05  
4 John Degenkolb (Germany)    
5 Lars Boom (Netherlands)    
6 Allan Davis (Australia)    
7 Thomas Voeckler (France)    
8 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)    
9 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Colombia)    
10 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain)    
11 Rui Costa (Portugal)    
12 Tom Boonen (Belgium)    
13 Oscar Gatto (Italy)    
14 Peter Sagan (Slovakia)    
15 Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Sweden)    
16 Koen De Kort (Netherlands)    
17 Michael Albasini (Switzerland)    
18 Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan)    
19 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Great Britain)    
20 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Norway)    
21 Simon Gerrans (Australia)    
22 Stefan Denifl (Austria)    
23 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Colombia)    
24 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spain)    
25 Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)    
26 Bjorn Leukemans (Belgium)    
27 Fabian Wegmann (Germany)    
28 Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)    
29 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)    
30 Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Portugal) 0:00:17  
31 Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)    
32 Robert Gesink (Netherlands)    
33 Daniel Martin (Ireland)    
34 Nicolas Roche (Ireland)    
35 Jurgen Roelandts (Belgium)    
36 Ian Stannard (Great Britain) 0:00:53  
37 Paul Martens (Germany)    
38 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain)    
39 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spain)    
40 Yury Trofimov (Russian Federation) 0:01:01  
41 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spain) 0:01:37  
42 David Tanner (Australia)    
43 Andrew Talansky (United States of America) 0:01:54  
44 Rene Mandri (Estonia) 0:02:21  
45 Gustav Larsson (Sweden)    
46 Marek Rutkiewicz (Poland)    
47 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Colombia)    
48 Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)    
49 Rafael Andriato (Brazil)    
50 Michael Schär (Switzerland)    
51 Gatis Smukulis (Latvia)    
52 Chris Anker Sorensen (Denmark)    
53 Jaroslaw Marycz (Poland)    
54 Takashi Miyazawa (Japan)    
55 Karsten Kroon (Netherlands)    
56 Tom Jelte Slagter (Netherlands)    
57 Sylvain Chavanel (France)    
58 Radoslav Rogina (Croatia)    
59 Jan Barta (Czech Republic)    
60 Ben Swift (Great Britain)    
61 Michal Golas (Poland)    
62 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Luxembourg)    
63 Mathias Frank (Switzerland)    
64 Alex Howes (United States of America)    
65 Vladimir Gusev (Russian Federation)    
66 Niki Terpstra (Netherlands)    
67 Steve Morabito (Switzerland)    
68 Winner Anacona Gomez (Colombia)    
69 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Colombia)    
70 Stephen Cummings (Great Britain)    
71 Sergio Paulinho PRO    
72 Simon Geschke (Germany)    
73 Heinrich Haussler (Australia)    
74 Moreno Moser (Italy) 0:02:34  
75 Luca Paolini (Italy) 0:02:46  
76 Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy)    
77 Marco Marcato (Italy)    
78 Simon Clarke (Australia) 0:02:53  
79 Johannes Frohlinger (Germany)    
80 Christian Knees (Germany)    
81 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spain)    
82 Borut Bozic (Slovenia)    
83 David Veilleux (Canada)    
84 Mickael Delage (France)    
85 Diego Ulissi (Italy)    
86 Eduard Vorganov (Russian Federation)    
87 Oleksandr Polivoda (Ukraine) 0:03:11  
88 Luke Rowe (Great Britain) 0:05:46  
89 Vladimir Isaichev (Russian Federation)    
90 Gianni Meersman (Belgium) 0:08:10  
91 Matej Jurco (Slovakia) 0:08:55  
92 Carlos Oyarzun (Chile)    
93 Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Belarus)    
94 Siarhei Papok (Belarus)    
95 Stefan Histrov (Bulgaria)    
96 Evaldas Siskevicius (Lithuania)    
97 Carlos Jose Ochoa (Venezuela)    
98 Taylor Phinney (United States of America)    
99 Peter Kusztor (Hungary)    
100 Bertjan Lindeman (Netherlands)    
101 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Poland)    
102 Jacek Morajko (Poland)    
103 Brent Bookwalter (United States of America)    
104 Frantisek Rabon (Czech Republic)    
105 Ronan Mc Laughlin (Ireland)    
106 Matthias Brandle (Austria)    
107 Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic)    
108 Ryder Hesjedal (Canada)    
109 Georgi Petrov Georgiev (Bulgaria)    
110 Francois Parisien (Canada)    
111 Marcus Burghardt (Germany)    
112 Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden)    
113 Leopold Konig (Czech Republic)    
114 Tanel Kangert (Estonia)    
115 Jure Kocjan (Slovenia)    
116 Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic)    
117 Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)    
118 Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa)    
119 Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands)    
120 Matteo Trentin (Italy) 0:09:44  
121 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (Costa Rica) 0:10:23  
122 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spain)    
DNF Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)    
DNF Kristijan Koren (Slovenia)    
DNF Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia)    
DNF Grega Bole (Slovenia)    
DNF Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)    
DNF Sergey Firsanov (Russian Federation)    
DNF Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan)    
DNF Dario Cataldo (Italy)    
DNF Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spain)    
DNF Rein Taaramae (Estonia)    
DNF Jay Robert Thomson (South Africa)    
DNF Wesley Sulzberger (Australia)    
DNF Adam Hansen (Australia)    
DNF Jerome Coppel (France)    
DNF Vincent Jerome (France)    
DNF Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)    
DNF Christopher Horner (United States of America)    
DNF Tejay van Garderen (United States of America)    
DNF Tony Gallopin (France)    
DNF Kevin De Weert (Belgium)    
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)    
DNF Gabriel Rasch (Norway)    
DNF Jonathan Monsalve (Venezuela)    
DNF Maxime Bouet (France)    
DNF Martin Grashev (Bulgaria)    
DNF Gregory Rast (Switzerland)    
DNF Oliver Zaugg (Switzerland)    
DNF Bruno Pires (Portugal)    
DNF Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)    
DNF Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Colombia)    
DNF Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Colombia)    
DNF Arthur Vichot (France)    
DNF Richie Porte (Australia)    
DNF Timothy Duggan (United States of America)    
DNF Michael Matthews (Australia)    
DNF Ying Hon Yeung (Hong Kong, China)    
DNF Johan Vansummeren (Belgium)    
DNF Matthew Busche (United States of America)    
DNF Vladimir Miholjevic (Croatia)    
DNF Marko Kump (Slovenia)    
DNF Fabricio Ferrari Barcelo (Uruguay)    
DNF Julian Dean (New Zealand)    
DNF Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)    
DNF Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa)    
DNF Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine)    
DNF Denys Kostyuk (Ukraine)    
DNF Daniel Schorn (Austria)    
DNF Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kazakhstan)    
DNF Luka Mezgec (Slovenia)    
DNF Hayden Roulston (New Zealand)    
DNF Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan)    
DNF Lucas Euser (United States of America)    
DNF Jorge Martin Montenegro (Argentina)    
DNF Dmytro Krivtsov (Ukraine)    
DNF Juraj Sagan (Slovakia)    
DNF Maros Kovac (Slovakia)    
DNF Tomasz Marczynski (Poland)    
DNF Alexandr Pliuschin (Republic of Moldova)    
DNF Ben Gastauer (Luxembourg)    
DNF Jeremy Roy (France)    
DNF Peter Velits (Slovakia)    
DNF Matti Breschel (Denmark)    
DNF Christopher Froome (Great Britain)    
DNF Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)    
DNF Jesse Sergent (New Zealand)    
DNF Tomas Aurelio Gil Martinez (Venezuela)    
DNF Stanislav Kozubek (Czech Republic)    
DNF Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Argentina)    
DNF Dries Devenyns (Belgium)    
DNF Laurent Didier (Luxembourg)    
DNF Enzo Moyano (Argentina)    
DNF Shinichi Fukushima (Japan)    
DNF Yukihiro Doi (Japan)    
DNF Alex Dowsett (Great Britain)    
DNF Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia)    
DNF Mauricio Muller (Argentina)    
DNF Hichem Chaabane (Algeria)    
DNF Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)    
DNF Yusuke Hatanaka (Japan)    
DNF Amir Rusli (Malaysia)    
DNF Svein Tuft (Canada)    
DNF Sea Keong Loh (Malaysia)    
DNF Martin Velits (Slovakia)    
DNF Nebojsa Jovanovic (Serbia)    
DNF Elchin Asadov (Azerbaijan)    

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