Cadel Evans (Australia) is the new world champion. That is not a sentence that many would have imagined at 10:30 am in Mendrisio, when 202 riders set out for 19 laps of a 13.8km circuit, for a total distance of 262.2km, but, seven hours later, it was the Australian who appeared alone at the finish. His opportunistic attack at the foot of the final climb, 5km from the end, brought him a success that was as spectacular as it was surprising.
Since it was his first major one-day win, Evans was perhaps not versed in the art of victory celebrations. His were far from elaborate. He raised one hand to his mouth, blowing a kiss to the left, then one to the right, before patting his chest and kissing the ring that dangled on a chain around his neck - his wedding ring, he revealed later. The tears followed, understandably.
The home favourite Fabian Cancellara, who had set his heart on doing the double after winning Thursday's time trial, was a key protagonist over the crucial final two laps, though he eventually missed out, crossing the line a disconsolate fifth. The tears followed for him, too.
It was on the penultimate lap, on the descent of the Acqua Fresca, that Cancellara, anonymous until then, finally made his move, opening the throttle and bridging the gap to a dangerous looking lead group that had just formed. It included Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Oliver Zaugg (Switzerland) and two survivors of an earlier move in Luca Paolini (Italy) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium).
Damiano Cunego (Italy) and Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) were among those who followed in Cancellara's wake, though the rest of a diminished field - down to not many more than 20 bodies - was not far behind.
Zaugg put in a power of work for his Swiss teammate, but they were caught and the Italians took over, Filippo Pozzato and Ivan Basso leading up the second climb, the Novazzano, the summit of which came only 2.8km before the line.
Coming through for the bell, though, it was a familiar figure out front on his own. UCI president Pat McQuaid had suggested, 24 hours earlier, that he would be less than happy to have to present the rainbow jersey to Alejandro Valverde of Spain, who remains under suspicion for his alleged involvement in Operacion Puerto.
But the idea of presenting it instead to the rider now on the attack must have filled him with a similar dread. The escapee was Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), who recently returned from a two-year ban for blood doping.
"Vino" was captured, but attacked again going through Mendrisio, building a healthy-looking lead until a counterattack by Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia) helped bring him back. Cancellara, meanwhile, had another dig on the final downhill section between the two climbs, this time opening the gap with another skillful descender, Samuel Sanchez (Spain), who ignored the Swiss rider's invitation to come through and capitalise on their advantage.
Yet that move did prompt the crucial selection. A nine-man lead group formed, with most of the Italians eliminated - only Cunego was left. Sanchez, in contrast, had three teammates - Valverde, Joaquin Rodriguez and three-time champion Oscar Freire - and apparently all the cards.
It was inevitable that a Spaniard would attack, and it was Rodriguez, launching a cheeky attack up the left side before the climb of Novazzano - the final climb of the race. It was cheeky because the road split in two at this point, with a border up the middle, but, when the border disappeared and the road opened back up, Kolobnev and Evans jumped after him. As Evans explained later, "Spain had the numbers. When one Spanish guy went away, no one was going to chase him down, so that's why when Spain made a move, I made sure I was there."
Yet when Evans jumped clear, at the foot of the climb, Rodriguez seemed unable to react. He sat behind Kolobnev, no doubt hoping that a teammate would come up from behind, but it didn't happen. Instead, Cancellara cut a forlorn figure on the front of the chase group - a misnomer, since it wasn't actually chasing - looking around for help, but with no response.
Evans had 13 seconds over Kolobnev and Rodriguez at the top of the climb, and 24 seconds on the group behind. It was enough. He put his head down and raced for the finish. "I've been thinking about this race for two years," said a tearful Evans, who lives only 3km from the circuit. But surely even he - in his wildest dreams - couldn't have foreseen this outcome.
A long day
The first half of the world title race was dominated by an early break, which went clear as early as the first lap, with Matija Kvasina (Croatia), Christoph Sokoll (Austria), Peter Kusztor (Hungary), Jan Barta (Czech Republic), Yukiya Arashiro (Japan) and the surprise infiltrator, Andre Greipel (Germany), fresh from his four stage wins at the Vuelta a Espana.
Thirty seconds clear at the end of the first lap of 13.8km, with its two testing climbs and very little respite in between, they had doubled that advantage a lap later. A chasing group of four then formed behind them on the third lap, containing Mauricio Ardila (Colombia), Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia), Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine) and Olegs Melehs (Latvia), and they came together on the climb out of Mendrisio - the Acqua Fresca - to make a lead group of 10.
With none of the major nations represented - apart, perhaps, from Greipel for Germany - they were able to capitalise on the peloton's indifference, steadily building a lead that nudged ten minutes after six laps, with almost a third of the race covered. It was at this point, though, that the race proper began for at least one of the Italian team - Marzio Bruseghin.
The Lampre veteran put in an incredible shift, leading the bunch for lap after lap - he led them through the start/finish area for an incredible six laps in succession - and almost single-handedly reduced the break's advantage.
By the time that Bruseghin clocked off - his shift ending after eleven laps, or with almost two-thirds completed - it was down to around six minutes, but his clocking off coincided with a more significant development involving four of the Azzurri, including the defending World Champion Alessandro Ballan.
Ballan, Michele Scarponi, Giovanni Visconti (all Italy), Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain), Greg Van Avermaet and Francis De Greef (both Belgium), Michael Albasini (Switzerland), Paul Maertens (Germany) and Johnny Hoogerland (Netherlands) formed a dangerous-looking nine-man group - so dangerous that they were hunted down by a counter-move of 20 men.
That group included former champion Tom Boonen and two more Belgian teammates, another Italian - Luca Paolini - as well as Michael Rogers (Australia), Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) and two more Spaniards in Juan Jose Cobo and Carlos Barredo. As the two groups merged to form one of some 29 riders, that mix was interesting - four Italians, four Belgians and three Spanish.
Behind, it was initially the Norwegian team of Edvald Boasson Hagen who led the chase, before Australia, with Adam Hansen, Stuart O'Grady and Matthew Hayman all prominent, took over.
The Ballan group gained a minute-and-a-half on the peloton, while the break continued to dangle out front. Coming up for four laps to go, though, and it was down to a precarious 36 seconds, with the bunch a further 45 seconds back. It looked then as though it would all come back together, but then, with the early break swallowed up, the gap stretched back out - to two minutes over the next lap.
As is often the case in the World Championships, however, the race didn't erupt until the final two laps. The Italians and Spaniards predictably massed at the front, but it was to be a race with a twist - and one that justified all that work by the Cyclones, who, a couple of hours later, could celebrate Australia's first ever world road race champion.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Cadel Evans (Australia)||6:56:26|
|2||Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)||0:00:27|
|3||Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spain)|
|4||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spain)||0:00:30|
|5||Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)|
|6||Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)||0:00:51|
|7||Matti Breschel (Denmark)|
|8||Damiano Cunego (Italy)|
|9||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain)|
|10||Simon Gerrans (Australia)||0:01:47|
|11||Fabian Wegmann (Germany)|
|12||Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway)|
|13||Chris Sörensen (Denmark)||0:01:59|
|14||Johnny Hoogerland (Netherlands)||0:02:02|
|15||Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain)|
|16||Ivan Basso (Italy)|
|17||Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Portugal)||0:02:44|
|18||Michael Barry (Canada)|
|19||Serguei Ivanov (Russian Federation)|
|20||Karsten Kroon (Netherlands)||0:02:50|
|21||Filippo Pozzato (Italy)|
|22||Leonardo Fabio Duque (Colombia)|
|23||Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands)|
|24||Sylvester Szmyd (Poland)|
|25||Kevin De Weert (Belgium)|
|26||Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan)|
|27||Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)|
|28||Oliver Zaugg (Switzerland)|
|29||Sylvain Chavanel (France)|
|30||Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)|
|31||Alexandre Botcharov (Russian Federation)|
|32||Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia)|
|33||Thomas Lövkvist (Sweden)|
|34||Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Portugal)|
|35||Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia)|
|36||Robert Gesink (Netherlands)||0:03:01|
|37||Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Colombia)||0:03:21|
|38||Tom Boonen (Belgium)|
|39||Bert De Waele (Belgium)|
|40||Philip Deignan (Ireland)|
|41||Alessandro Ballan (Italy)|
|42||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spain)|
|43||Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)||0:03:45|
|44||Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)|
|45||Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg)||0:04:20|
|46||Pierrick Fedrigo (France)||0:04:29|
|47||Marcus Ljungqvist (Sweden)||0:05:20|
|48||Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia)|
|49||Jussi Veikkanen (Finland)|
|50||José Rujano Guillen (Venezuela)|
|51||Eduard Vorganov (Russian Federation)|
|52||Steven Cummings (Great Britain)|
|53||Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)|
|54||Kristjan Fajt (Slovenia)|
|55||Murilo Antonio Fischer (Brazil)|
|56||Kanstantin Siutsou (Belarus)|
|57||Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan)|
|58||Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan)|
|59||Craig Lewis (United States Of America)|
|60||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)|
|61||Christophe Riblon (France)|
|62||Przemyslaw Niemiec (Poland)|
|63||Nick Nuyens (Belgium)|
|64||Matthew Lloyd (Australia)||0:06:07|
|65||Luca Paolini (Italy)||0:07:43|
|66||Dmitriy Fofonov (Kazakhstan)|
|67||Thomas Voeckler (France)|
|68||Daniel Martin (Ireland)||0:08:22|
|69||Rui Alberto Rui Costa (Portugal)|
|70||Vladimir Miholjevic (Croatia)||0:10:54|
|71||Stefano Garzelli (Italy)|
|72||Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukraine)|
|73||Bartosz Huzarski (Poland)|
|74||Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Colombia)|
|75||Carlos José Ochoa (Venezuela)|
|76||Hrvoje Miholjevic (Croatia)|
|77||Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia)|
|78||Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden)|
|79||Grischa Niermann (Germany)|
|79||Timothy Duggan (United States Of America)|
|81||Stian Remme (Norway)|
|82||Michael Albasini (Switzerland)|
|83||Franklin Chacon Colmenares (Venezuela)|
|84||René Mandri (Estonia)|
|85||Pavel Brutt (Russian Federation)|
|86||Michal Golas (Poland)|
|87||Gabriel Rasch (Norway)|
|88||Maarten Wynants (Belgium)|
|89||Maxime Monfort (Belgium)|
|90||Martin Velits (Slovakia)|
|91||Lars Boom (Netherlands)|
|92||Roger Hammond (Great Britain)|
|93||Christophe Le Mevel (France)|
|94||Thomas Peterson (United States Of America)|
|95||Dimitri Champion (France)|
|96||Hayden Roulston (New Zealand)|
|97||Maxim Iglinsky (Kazakhstan)|
|98||Mccartney Jason (United States Of America)|
|99||Johannes Fröhlinger (Germany)|
|100||Peter Velits (Slovakia)|
|101||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Colombia)|
|102||Gerhard Trampusch (Austria)||0:14:03|
|103||Paul Martens (Germany)|
|104||Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine)|
|105||Vladimir Karpets (Russian Federation)|
|106||Jan Barta (Czech Republic)|
|107||Michael Rogers (Australia)|
|108||Juan Carlos Lopez Marin (Colombia)|
|DNF||Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spain)|
|DNF||Thomas Danielson (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Tony Martin (Germany)|
|DNF||Marzio Bruseghin (Italy)|
|DNF||Serhiy Honchar (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Jacek Morajko (Poland)|
|DNF||Juan Manuel Garate Cepa (Spain)|
|DNF||Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuela)|
|DNF||Sebastian Langeveld (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Peter Kusztor (Hungary)|
|DNF||Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Belarus)|
|DNF||Christian Knees (Germany)|
|DNF||Francis De Greef (Belgium)|
|DNF||Manuel Eduardo Medina Marino (Venezuela)|
|DNF||Giovanni Visconti (Italy)|
|DNF||Rubens Bertogliati (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Michele Scarponi (Italy)|
|DNF||Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spain)|
|DNF||Ruben Plaza Molina (Spain)|
|DNF||Anders Lund (Denmark)|
|DNF||Christopher Froome (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Tyler Farrar (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Frank Hoj (Denmark)|
|DNF||Maciej Paterski (Poland)|
|DNF||Andrew Bajadali (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Svein Tuft (Canada)|
|DNF||Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Daniel Lloyd (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Grega Bole (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Wesley Sulzberger (Australia)|
|DNF||Volodymyr Starchyk (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)|
|DNF||Ben Swift (Great Britain)|
|DNF||André Greipel (Germany)|
|DNF||Mauricio Ardila Cano (Colombia)|
|DNF||Fabricio Ferrari Barcelo (Uruguay)|
|DNF||Geraint Thomas (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Lars Ytting Bak (Denmark)|
|DNF||Matija Kvasina (Croatia)|
|DNF||Thor Hushovd (Norway)|
|DNF||Laurent Didier (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Guama Byron (Ecuador)|
|DNF||Andrey Kashechkin (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Stuart O`Grady (Australia)|
|DNF||David Millar (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Mathew Hayman (Australia)|
|DNF||Simon Clarke (Australia)|
|DNF||Janek Tombak (Estonia)|
|DNF||Brent Bookwalter (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (Costa Rica)|
|DNF||Roy Hegreberg (Norway)|
|DNF||Martin Mares (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Rein Taaramae (Estonia)|
|DNF||Freddy Vargas (Venezuela)|
|DNF||Evgeny Popov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Mathias Frank (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Tiago Fiorilli (Brazil)|
|DNF||Nicolas Roche (Ireland)|
|DNF||Christoph Sokoll (Austria)|
|DNF||Taiji Nishitani (Japan)|
|DNF||Dan Craven (Namibia)|
|DNF||Borut Bozic (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Magno Prado Nazaret (Brazil)|
|DNF||Guennadi Mikhailov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Grégory Rast (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Timothy Gudsell (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Jan Valach (Slovakia)|
|DNF||Jay Robert Thomson (South Africa)|
|DNF||Frederik Wilman (Norway)|
|DNF||Jeremy Vennell (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Olegs Melehs (Latvia)|
|DNF||Alexander Porsev (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Nebojsa Jovanovic (Serbia)|
|DNF||Ian Stannard (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Martin Garrido Mayorga (Argentina)|
|DNF||Ryder Hesjedal (Canada)|
|DNF||Marcel Sieberg (Germany)|
|DNF||Gerald Ciolek (Germany)|
|DNF||Matias Medici (Argentina)|
|DNF||Russell Downing (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Haavard Nybö (Norway)|
|DNF||Istvan Cziraki (Hungary)|
|DNF||Lars Petter Nordhaug (Norway)|
|DNF||Valentin Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Alfredo Orlando Lucero (Argentina)|
|DNF||Allan Davis (Australia)|
|DNF||Zolt Der (Serbia)|
|DNF||Gergely Ivanics (Hungary)|
|DNF||Esad Hasanovic (Serbia)|
|DNF||Carlos Ivan Oyarzun Guiñez (Chile)|
|DNF||Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Peter Wrolich (Austria)|
Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
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