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Gallery: Men's World Championship road races through the years

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Leonardo Piepoli rides through horrible conditions during the 1995 road race

Leonardo Piepoli rides through horrible conditions during the 1995 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Rik Van Steenbergen takes his third world title in 1957

Rik Van Steenbergen takes his third world title in 1957
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Rik Van Looy beat defending champion André Darrigade in 1960

Rik Van Looy beat defending champion André Darrigade in 1960
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Joaquim Rodriguez is overwhelmed by emotion on the 2013 podium

Joaquim Rodriguez is overwhelmed by emotion on the 2013 podium
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The peloton ride by during the 2013 road race

The peloton ride by during the 2013 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Rui Costa beats Joaquim Rodriguez to win the 2013 title

Rui Costa beats Joaquim Rodriguez to win the 2013 title
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Philippe Gilbert and his Belgian teammates wrap up against the rain in 2013

Philippe Gilbert and his Belgian teammates wrap up against the rain in 2013
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The peloton at the 2012 road race

The peloton at the 2012 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The start line gets a rainbow touch in 2011

The start line gets a rainbow touch in 2011
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The 2009 riders sign on

The 2009 riders sign on
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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A fan cheers on the riders during the 2014 road race

A fan cheers on the riders during the 2014 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Philippe Gilbert takes victory in Valkenburg in 2012

Philippe Gilbert takes victory in Valkenburg in 2012
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Michal Kwiatkowski can hardly believe he's become the world champion

Michal Kwiatkowski can hardly believe he's become the world champion
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Rory Sutherland leads the peloton during the 2014 road race

Rory Sutherland leads the peloton during the 2014 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Sean Kelly and Claude Criquielion at the start of the 1991 road race

Sean Kelly and Claude Criquielion at the start of the 1991 road race
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Maurizo Fondriest before winning the 1988 world title

Maurizo Fondriest before winning the 1988 world title
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Italian coach Alfredo Martini watches on in the car

Italian coach Alfredo Martini watches on in the car
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fans during the 1985 World Championships

Fans during the 1985 World Championships
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche awaits his rainbow jersey after winning in 1987

Stephen Roche awaits his rainbow jersey after winning in 1987
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The break during the 1985 road race

The break during the 1985 road race
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Australian Phil Anderson leads the way during the 1983 World Championships

Australian Phil Anderson leads the way during the 1983 World Championships
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Italian fans at the 2014 World Championships in Ponferrada

Italian fans at the 2014 World Championships in Ponferrada
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Michal Kwiatkowski, Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde on the 2014 podium

Michal Kwiatkowski, Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde on the 2014 podium
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Alberto Contador ahead of the 2012 road race

Alberto Contador ahead of the 2012 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Mark Cavendish gets ready to defend his title in 2012

Mark Cavendish gets ready to defend his title in 2012
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Alessandro Ballan jumps away to take a solo win in 2008

Alessandro Ballan jumps away to take a solo win in 2008
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Paolo Bettini, Alejandro Valverde and Erik Zabel on the podium in 2006

Paolo Bettini, Alejandro Valverde and Erik Zabel on the podium in 2006
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Paolo Bettini is overjoyed by his first world title in 2006

Paolo Bettini is overjoyed by his first world title in 2006
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Some choice headgear by Alessandro Petacchi in 2005

Some choice headgear by Alessandro Petacchi in 2005
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Spain head the bunch in 2004 en-route to Oscar Freire's third world title

Spain head the bunch in 2004 en-route to Oscar Freire's third world title
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The peloton of the 2004 road race

The peloton of the 2004 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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 Romāns Vainšteins wins the 2000 world title

Romāns Vainšteins wins the 2000 world title
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Lance Armstrong during the 1998 road race

Lance Armstrong during the 1998 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Lance Armstrong wins the 1993 world championships

Lance Armstrong wins the 1993 world championships
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Paolo Bettini's 2007 victory wasn't popular with everyone

Paolo Bettini's 2007 victory wasn't popular with everyone
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Paolo Bettini celebrates his second consecutive world title in 2007

Paolo Bettini celebrates his second consecutive world title in 2007
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Mark Cavendish becomes only the second British world champion in 2011

Mark Cavendish becomes only the second British world champion in 2011
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Mark Cavendish hugs teammate Geraint Thomas after winning gold in 2011

Mark Cavendish hugs teammate Geraint Thomas after winning gold in 2011
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The top three in 2010 Thor Hushovd, Matti Breschel and Allan Davis

The top three in 2010 Thor Hushovd, Matti Breschel and Allan Davis
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The peloton pass by a field during the 2010 road race

The peloton pass by a field during the 2010 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Road decoration at the 2009 road race

Road decoration at the 2009 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Cadel Evans checks out his new rainbow stripes after winning in 2009

Cadel Evans checks out his new rainbow stripes after winning in 2009
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Baby-faced Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard in 2008

Baby-faced Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard in 2008
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Paolo Bettini out-sprints Alexander Kolobnev to win in 2007

Paolo Bettini out-sprints Alexander Kolobnev to win in 2007
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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An Italian Fan during the 2008 road race

An Italian Fan during the 2008 road race
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Eddy Merckx the 1971 world champion

Eddy Merckx the 1971 world champion
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The elite men's road race has been part of the cycling calendar since 1927 when Italian Alfredo Binda took the first of three World Championship titles on the Nürburgring. It was an all-Italian podium on that day with Constante Girardengo and Domenico Piemontesi completing the first three spots.

Only two other riders have matched Binda and taken the rainbow jersey for a third time: Rik Van Steenbergen in 1957 and Oscar Freire in 2004. Belgium and Italy have dominated the top step since the inception of the Worlds with the former taking 26 gold medals, seven more than Italy. Third placed France are well behind on eight.

With six medals to his name, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde has the most of any individual and more than most nations, yet he has never worn the rainbow jersey.

Michal Kwiatkowski made history as the first Polish champion and he is looking to add himself to another record by becoming only the sixth cyclist to defend his title.

Flick through our gallery above for a look back at World Championship road races through the years and click here to see our retrospective of the women's world championship road race. 

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