Valverde crowned World Champion in Innsbruck

Spaniard breaks his duck, topping Bardet, Woods

Alejandro Valverde (Spain) sprinted to victory from an elite group of four to win the UCI Road World Championships elite men's road race in Innsbruck. The Spaniard made it away over the final climb of the day along with Romain Bardet (France) and Michael Woods (Canada), while Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) caught the trio on the final descent.

There was a surprising lack of attacks in the finale, and Valverde took full advantage, beating Bardet and Woods into the silver and bronze medal positions.

It was the toughest Worlds course in years, with nine climbs on the menu including the brutal final hill of Höttinger Höll. It was no surprise that that 3km, 11.5% climb just 10km from the finish, would decide the race.

Michael Valgren (Denmark) took a 30-second lead onto the climb, but leading the peloton, France had other plans. Breaking away from the front of the peloton with Julian Alaphilippe, Thibaut Pinot and Bardet, they took Woods, Valverde and Gianni Moscon (Italy) with them.

After the Canadian attacked on the steepest slopes, it was just him, Bardet and Valverde up front, with Dumoulin chasing behind. The Dutchman caught on with 2km to go, setting up a grand finale.

Dumoulin attempted an ambush attack in the final kilometre, but was quickly shut down. Surprisingly, there were no attempts from the other men, with the trio happy to compete against Valverde in the sprint to the line. After that, there was only ever going to be one outcome.

Having come so close to the rainbow jersey in the past – he has four bronzes and two silvers over the 11 editions of the race he’s competed in – Valverde was understandably emotional after the finish.

"It’s incredible,” he said. "Fighting, fighting, it’s a dream. I have to thank the team because they were a ten [out of ten]. I was saving it for the sprint and the truth it’s just something incredible. This has been a dream of mine to be a world champion."

How it happened

The toughest World Championships route in years – certainly the toughest any riders on the start would’ve competed in – took in 258km from Kufstein to Innsbruck. With 4,670 vertical metres, it was the tenth hilliest Worlds in history.

60km in, Gnadenwald was the first climb of the race – a sharp introduction at 2.8km and an average of 10.1%. Six laps of the 23.8km main circuit would follow, with each one featuring the 7.9km Igls climb, averaging 5.7% with some 10% sections.

A fast sweeping descent off the climb followed the climb, and after six laps and seven climbs of Igls came the final test – Höttinger Höll. The 3.2km was the toughest test of the day, averaging 11.5% but maxing out at a ridiculous 28%. With the top coming 8km from the finish, with 5km of downhill, it would surely be the decisive point of the day.

There were attacks from the gun as riders from smaller countries looked to make their mark, knowing they wouldn’t be in contention later on. After 10km, a group made it out front, with Rob Britton (Canada), Tobias Ludvigsson (Sweden), Kasper Asgreen (Denmark), Ryan Mullen (Ireland), Daniil Fominykh (Kazakhstan) and Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway) up the road.

More riders made it across soon after, with Karel Hnik (Czech Republic), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa), Conor Dunne (Ireland), Ilya Koshevoy (Belarus) and Laurent Didier (Luxembourg) joining the lead sextet after 20km of racing.

The advantage for the eleven leaders peaked at 19 minutes as they crested the first climb of the day at Gnadenwald. As the riders hit the circuit and the Igls climb, the first abandons of the day came, but there was nobody major among the casualties.

Heading onto the fourth climb of Igls 150km into the race, the pace and climbing was starting to show as Didier was the first from the break to drop away and several riders dropped from the peloton.

Inside the final 100km, Austria pushed on the front of the peloton, putting on a show at their home race. Meanwhile, the two Irishmen were the next to fall back from the break.

The first big news of the day came at the back of the peloton with 90km to race as reigning world champion Peter Sagan (Slovakia) was dropped. He gave the television camera a nod and smile as he did so – better luck next year, perhaps.

Great Britain started putting a man up front lap by lap, while Spain and Italy were also visible on the front of the peloton. With 80km and four climbs remaining, the gap was down to seven minutes. Up front, the break was disintegrating as they tackled Igls for the fifth time, leaving just four men with a six-minute advantage.

Primož Roglič (Slovenia) was involved in a crash at the top of the climb with 65km to go as the action kicked off up front. Italy were attacking with Dario Cataldo and Vincenzo Nibali, while Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) was also up there, but such a move wouldn’t be allowed to get away at that point.

Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) went on the offensive 55km out. He was joined by Omar Fraile (Spain) and Damiano Caruso (Italy), though they were caught as attacks flew 10km later. In the break only two remained – Asgreen and Laengen – three minutes up the road.

Dan Martin (Ireland), Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) and Vuelta winner Simon Yates (Great Britain) were among the big names dropped as the peloton tackled Igls for the penultimate time. At the front, Antwan Tolhoek (Netherlands) and Gianluca Brambilla (Italy) were among those trying attacks.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spain)6:46:41 
2Romain Bardet (France)  
3Michael Woods (Canada)  
4Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)  
5Gianni Moscon (Italy)0:00:13 
6Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)0:00:43 
7Michael Valgren Andersen (Denmark)  
8Julian Alaphilippe (France)  
9Thibaut Pinot (France)  
10Rui Costa (Portugal)  
11Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spain)  
12Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)0:00:49 
13Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spain)0:00:52 
14Sam Oomen (Netherlands)0:01:21 
15Nairo Quintana (Colombia)  
16Peter Kennaugh (Great Britain)  
17Jan Hirt (Czech Republic)  
18George Bennett (New Zealand)  
19Jack Haig (Australia)  
20Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)  
21Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy)  
22Andrey Zeits (Kazakhstan)  
23Ben Hermans (Belgium)0:01:32 
24Simon Geschke (Germany)0:01:54 
25Sergei Chernetski (Russian Federation)0:02:00 
26Mathias Frank (Switzerland)0:02:10 
27Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands)  
28Antwan Tolhoek (Netherlands)  
29Dylan Teuns (Belgium)  
30Odd Christian Eiking (Norway)0:02:42 
31Rudy Molard (France)  
32Sébastien Reichenbach (Switzerland)  
33Rigoberto Uran (Colombia)0:02:57 
34Primož Roglic (Slovenia)0:04:00 
35Rafal Majka (Poland)  
36Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan)  
37Adam Yates (Great Britain)  
38Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands)  
39Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)0:05:00 
40Alessandro De Marchi (Italy)0:05:05 
41Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea)0:05:44 
42Xandro Meurisse (Belgium)  
43Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway)  
44David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spain)0:05:56 
45Michael Gogl (Austria)  
46Emanuel Buchmann (Germany)  
47Pavel Sivakov (Russian Federation)0:06:00 
48Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Colombia)0:06:02 
49Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)  
50Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)0:08:08 
51Pavel Kochetkov (Russian Federation)  
52Kasper Asgreen (Denmark)0:10:22 
53Franco Pellizotti (Italy)0:10:33 
54Carl Fredrik Hagen (Norway)0:12:24 
55Emil Nygaard Vinjebo (Denmark)0:12:57 
56Lukasz Owsian (Poland)0:13:05 
57Ilnur Zakarin (Russian Federation)  
58Tony Gallopin (France)  
59Patrick Konrad (Austria)  
60Steve Morabito (Switzerland)  
61Jesus Herrada (Spain)0:13:09 
62Toms Skujins (Latvia)0:13:13 
63Brent Bookwalter (United States Of America)0:14:23 
64Damiano Caruso (Italy)  
65Dario Cataldo (Italy)  
66Hugh John Carthy (Great Britain)  
67Nicolas Roche (Ireland)  
68Tim Wellens (Belgium)  
69Pieter Weening (Netherlands)  
70Rob Power (Australia)  
71Richard Carapaz (Ecuador)0:14:48 
72Benjamin King (United States Of America)0:15:57 
73Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina)0:16:51 
74Nico Denz (Germany)0:18:17 
75Gianluca Brambilla (Italy)0:19:35 
76Robert Britton (Canada)0:19:37 
DNFEnric Mas Nicolau (Spain)  
DNFSimon Clarke (Australia)  
DNFOmar Fraile Matarranz (Spain)  
DNFJonathan Castroviejo (Spain)  
DNFJacques Willem Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa)  
DNFTanel Kangert (Estonia)  
DNFMichal Kwiatkowski (Poland)  
DNFWout Poels (Netherlands)  
DNFJesper Hansen (Denmark)  
DNFMarkus Hoelgaard (Norway)  
DNFPeter Stetina (United States Of America)  
DNFKilian Frankiny (Switzerland)  
DNFAndrey Grivko (Ukraine)  
DNFIldar Arslanov (Russian Federation)  
DNFMarcus Burghardt (Germany)  
DNFDaniel Martin (Ireland)  
DNFBob Jungels (Luxembourg)  
DNFIlia Koshevoy (Belarus)  
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Sweden)  
DNFKarel Hník (Czech Republic)  
DNFTao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain)  
DNFDamien Howson (Australia)  
DNFNicholas Jack William Schultz (Australia)  
DNFMatej Mohoric (Slovenia)  
DNFSimon Philip Yates (Great Britain)  
DNFSimon Špilak (Slovenia)  
DNFJan Polanc (Slovenia)  
DNFZdenek Štybar (Czech Republic)  
DNFFelix Grossschartner (Austria)  
DNFSepp Kuss (United States Of America)  
DNFPatrick Schelling (Switzerland)  
DNFMaximilian Schachmann (Germany)  
DNFAmanuel Ghebreigzabhier Werkilul (Eritrea)  
DNFAleksandr Riabushenko (Belarus)  
DNFDaniil Fominykh (Kazakhstan)  
DNFMichael Schär (Switzerland)  
DNFMiguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Colombia)  
DNFRúben Guerreiro (Portugal)  
DNFPaul Martens (Germany)  
DNFMichal Golas (Poland)  
DNFChristopher Hamilton (Australia)  
DNFEdvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)  
DNFWinner Andrew Anacona (Colombia)  
DNFConor Dunne (Ireland)  
DNFHideto Nakane (Japan)  
DNFRyan Mullen (Ireland)  
DNFLaurens De Plus (Belgium)  
DNFJhonnatan Narvaez (Ecuador)  
DNFTsgabu Gebremaryam Grmay (Ethiopia)  
DNFGregor Mühlberger (Austria)  
DNFJames Knox (Great Britain)  
DNFConnor Swift (Great Britain)  
DNFTiago Machado (Portugal)  
DNFAntoine Duchesne (Canada)  
DNFJosef Cerný (Czech Republic)  
DNFAnthony Roux (France)  
DNFAlexandre Geniez (France)  
DNFBen Gastauer (Luxembourg)  
DNFRory Sutherland (Australia)  
DNFMads Schmidt Würtz (Denmark)  
DNFLaurent Didier (Luxembourg)  
DNFGrega Bole (Slovenia)  
DNFJan Tratnik (Slovenia)  
DNFLukas Pöstlberger (Austria)  
DNFGeorg Preidler (Austria)  
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Poland)  
DNFMaciej Paterski (Poland)  
DNFPatrick Bevin (New Zealand)  
DNFPeter Sagan (Slovakia)  
DNFNikita Stalnov (Kazakhstan)  
DNFRohan Dennis (Australia)  
DNFSerge Pauwels (Belgium)  
DNFDion Smith (New Zealand)  
DNFSebastian Henao Gomez (Colombia)  
DNFDaniel Felipe Martinez Poveda (Colombia)  
DNFTiesj Benoot (Belgium)  
DNFJosip Rumac (Croatia)  
DNFMatti Breschel (Denmark)  
DNFNicholas Dlamini (South Africa)  
DNFDmitrii Strakhov (Russian Federation)  
DNFRodrigo Contreras Pinzon (Colombia)  
DNFSven Erik Bystrøm (Norway)  
DNFMartin Haring (Slovakia)  
DNFTom Wirtgen (Luxembourg)  
DNFJuraj Sagan (Slovakia)  
DNFPatrik Tybor (Slovakia)  
DNFMichael Kukrle (Czech Republic)  
DNFMarek Canecky (Slovakia)  
DNFKrists Neilands (Latvia)  
DNFIan Stannard (Great Britain)  
DNFJean-Pierre Drucker (Luxembourg)  
DNFRoman Daniel Villalobos Solis (Costa Rica)  
DNFAndrii Bratashchuk (Ukraine)  
DNFWarren Barguil (France)  
DNFDomen Novak (Slovenia)  
DNFHugo Houle (Canada)  
DNFVasil Kiryienka (Belarus)  
DNFLuka Pibernik (Slovenia)  
DNFRein Taaramäe (Estonia)  
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)  
DNFYauhen Sobal (Belarus)  
DNFNiklas Eg (Denmark)  
DNFErik Baska (Slovakia)  
DNFMartin Mahdar (Slovakia)  
DNFMohammadesmaeil Chaichiraghimi (Islamic Republic of Iran)  
DNFSam Bewley (New Zealand)  
DNFSerghei Tvetcov (Romania)  
DNFAlex Kirsch (Luxembourg)  
DNFStylianos Farantakis (Greece)  
DNFNorman Vahtra (Estonia)  
DNFHo San Chiu (Hong Kong, China)  
DNFNicolas Sessler (Brazil)  

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