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UCI Road World Championships 2012: Elite Men road race


This is it!  The Elite Men will battle it out to see who is best in the World!

And they're off!

GB's Cavendish and Wiggins -- the reigning World Champion and the Tour de France/Olympic winner -- are leading the way in the neutralized section.

The large group is moving together through the neutralized section, but it looks like now the action has started!

The speed has picked up now, of course. No one has gotten away yet.

It is an overcast day with chances of showers later on.  Cooler rather than warmer.

The last time the Worlds were held here was in 1998. At that time the covered 258km, or 15 laps of a circuit course. Oscar Camenzind of Switzerland won it in a time of 6:1:30 – yes, that is six hours – with Belgium's Peter van Petegem second at 23 seconds and Michele Bartoli of Italy third at 24 seconds.

Team GB is back at the head of the field.

There is a lot of road furniture on this section of the course, but so far there have been no problems.

No chance for them, but now a Dutch rider dashes out.

He immediately have three or four riders on his rear wheel, and then the whole peloton.

They are riding through a village now, where a few cars are parked on the road. Not good.

Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas greets the tv camera as he takes his jacket off.

GB is still leading the field, but not far behind them is a fleet of blue-and-orange Dutch riders.

And another attack from a Dutch rider!

He is not alone, but not sure who is with him - a French rider.

The French rider is Jeremy Roy, can't quite catch the number of the Dutchman.

It is Bert-Jan Lindeman, and the pair take on the first climb of the day.

Vladimir Isaichev (Russia) is trying to bridge up to the leading pair, which has 19 seconds on the field.

The Russian now has compan, as more riders jump out.

It now looks like there is only one rider between the field and the two leaders.

It is Evaldus Siskevicius of Lithuania.

Koen de Koert of the Netherlands is moving up on him now.

Siskeviciusnow has the leaders in his sights -- but so does the whole peloton.

Everyone has been caught except for the two leaders.

Another rider has jumped from the field, and we have our first crash: Oscar Freire!

His bike has problems, but he may hve injured himself as well. He is back up and going, so let's hope he is ok.

One of the Spanish threats to win is Oscar Freire, and why not?  He has already won this title three times! He has also said if he wins today, he will ride another year, otherwise he will retire. But he has threatened that before, so who knows....

Freire is back on the field now. Meanwhile Lindeman and Roy have been caught.

Freire is now discussing things with some other riders, with much gesturing. We venture to say he is not particularly happy.

Another rider has taken off, not yet sure who it is. He doesn't have a huge lead.

The other rider involved in Freire's crash was Ireland's Dan Martin, but he was easily able to continue.

Here the top ten from last year's race in Copenhagen:

1     Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)     5:40:27      
2     Matthew Harley Goss (Australia)            
3     André 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 Gomez (Spain)            
10     Tyler Farrar (United States Of America)            

Of those riders, Goss, Greipel, Cancellara, Feillu, and Farrar are not participating today – some due to injuries, but also because it is absolutely not a flat sprinter's course.

Bradley Wiggins at the rear of the field.

This is an unsettled part of the race. Many rides trying to jump but not being successful.

Two riders with a slight lead on the next climb. Let's see if we can get those names.

The duo is Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine) and Gattis Smukulis (Latvia).

The field is strung out single file, with small gaps appearing.

There is a first chase group of 40 or so, with a slight gap back to the peloton.

The two chase groups have merged again, as another rider takes off.

It is another rider from the Ukraine, but we didn't catch his number.

The duo has an 18 second lead.

The other Ukrainian rider is still dangling in between the two groups.

The Ukrainian chaser is Oleksandr Polivoda.

Well, the gaps have sure changed! The peloton is now at 1:08 back!

Polivoda, who was underway with Latvia's Saramotins, has been caught. And the next group tries to form and give chase.

That group didn't accomplish anything.

The pace is very high right now and the peloton is being pulled apart.

Going back a few years, these are the World Champions:

2011 Mark Cavendish
2010 Thor Hushovd
2009 Cadel Evans
2008 Alessandro Ballan
2007 Paolo Bettini
2006 Paolo Bettini
2005 Tom Boonen
2004 Oscar Freire Gomez
2003 Igor Astarloa Askasibar
2002 Mario Cipollini
2001 Oscar Freire Gomez
2000 Romans Vainsteins
1999 Oscar Freire Gomez

And which of them are here?  Cavendish, Boonen and Freire.

Koen de Koert  of the Netherlands has tried to jump but doesn't succeed.

220km remaining from 261km

It is now a 10-man group, with 36 seconds on the field.

55 seconds now for the leaders, as many of the peloton pull over for a nature break.

The lead group didnt stop, but kept on going, so their gap is now 1:24. And the peloton riders who didn't stop earlier to answer the call of nature are doing so now.

215km remaining from 261km

The lead group now has three minutes, so this looks like our group of the day.

The gapjis now even at four minutes.

Climbing?  Yes, those lovely little climbs of this area.  And here they are:

    1 Maasberg (500m at 4.4%)
    2 Adsteeg (500m to 5'4)
    3 Lange Raarberg (1300m to 4.5%)
    4 Putberg (1400m to 4.6%)
    5 Rugweg (3100m to 3'2)
    6 Eperheide (2300m to 4.5%)
    7 Hoogcruts (1000m to 5.8%)
    8 Bemelerberg (900m 5%) x10
    9 Cauberg (1200m to 5.8%) x10

None other than outgoing world champion Mark Cavendish is leading the peloton.

A change in the make-up of the lead group: Not Kangert, but Gatis Smukulis of Latvia.

The Dutch aren't willing to let this race get out of their grasp, and have sent what looks like their whole team to the head of the field.

200km remaining from 261km

Who are the favourites here today? Cyclingnews expects one of these ten riders to take the title.

GB again at the head of the field, Cavendish again.

Big crowds in the village. Cycling is of course enormously popular here.

Let's take a look at some of the favourites.  Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) is most definitely one of them. One could say this hasn't really been his season. After totally dominating things in 2011, he shockingly didn't get his first win this year until the Vuelta a Espana, where he took two stages. This is surely the kind of course which favours him and he will be highly motivated, but will that be enough?

Of course, he already has one medal from this Worlds:  silver from the team time trial.

Daniel taking over from Susan and Stephen for a while.

Cavendish and team GB continue to set the pace on the front. It's a rather puzzling move as GB don't need to do the chasing at the moment. The onus is on the teams like Belgium and Holland to do the majority of the work.

The earlier crash for Friere is the only major incident we've seen so far in the race. The three time world champion is looking for his 4th world title. He's currently tied in the record books and having finished so well in Amstel this year, he's a good bet for today - assuming he's not suffering too badly after the early tumble.

The gap to the leaders is up to 5:39.

A Spanish train of riders have moved up to the front of the peloton, just as the road starts to narrow. Cavendish and Dowsett are actually the only two British riders working but they've been joined by a ride from Belgium.

Back to Susan

We are doing a tag-team live report today, it looks like.

It is a big field today, 203 riders from 46 different countries. Team sizes range from nine riders to one.

Tim Duggan of the US is leading the break group at the moment. HIs stars-and-stripes kit is quite a contrast to this neon green Liquigas arm warmer!

We now see Alberto Contador the first time. It will be interesting to see how he does today, whether he will ride for himself or work for his teammates.

171km remaining from 261km

We have three sets of brothers in the race today, with Slovakia even having two pairs: Peter and Juraj Sagan, and Martin and Peter Velits. The other pair is Jacques and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg of South Africa.

The Netherlands charges to the head of the field now.

We will be going on to the circuit course in about 10km, perhaps that is why the Netherlands has moved up to take control.

All nine Dutch riders are up there pushing the pace. Actually it looks like more thannie.

And now the Dutch have all pulled back and GB is in control again. Were the Dutch just looking to see who would respond, and who they could drop?

The gap has come down slightly, and is now at 5:30.

Duggan drops back to the team car and stocks up on bidons.

Here we go. The breakaway starts the Cauberg climb for the first time.

The riders will climb the Cauberg 11 times and cover 10 laps of the 16.5km circuit.

The crowds are huge on the climb, with the breakaways getting a huge cheer.

153km remaining from 261km

Belgium, France and Great Britain lead the peloton over the top of the Cauberg, with Bradley Wiggins close to the front.

Thomas Voeckler (France) is up front with Wiggins. He is the team leader for France today.

The speed is high through the pits, with riders throwing off clothing and snatching bottles.  

The 11 riders in the breakaway are also eating and drinking as they work smoothly together. 

The official time gap between the break and the peloton at the finishline was 5:11. 

145km remaining from 261km

Great Britain is leading the chase, with outgoing world champion Mark Cavendish doing long terms on the front.

Gilbert is tucked in behind his team car at the back of the peloton.

Mark Cavendish narrowly avoided being hit by a sign held out by a roadside fan. It glanced his helmet but he wasn't happy.

The peloton has slowed down as it goes through the second pits area on the back of the circuit but is now lined out as the side winds threaten to be a factor.

Upfront, the break is back on the Cauberg.

Now here come the peloton, with Cavendish on the front and most of his teammates just behind him. 

Vladimir Isaichev of Russia stops for a front wheel change but is quickly away.

Cavendish is digging deep on the front, generously working for the Great Britain cause even though he is outgoing world champion.

The peloton goes through the finish at a slower pace, with more riders taking off gillet and getting ready to grab bottles at feed zone.

The roads are still dry in Limburg but the winds is getting stronger. 

Lastras grabs his musette in the second feed zone. The crowds are huge, with no barriers to hold them back.

The gap is slowly coming down and the break is under control but it will be fascinating to see how long they 11 riders can stay away.

The break is back on the Cauberg, with eight laps to go. Things are steady now but will explode very soon.

The peloton crossed the speed bumps on the descent to the Cauberg. Hopefully they won't cause any crashes later on.

Over the top of the Cauberg, Juan Antonio Felcha surges away, with Steve Cummings (Great Britain) and half a dozen other riders going with him.

The attack looks good but perhaps a little large to stay clear. 

Steve was on for the last hour or so, now Susan is back.

In there are Beppu (Japan), Nocentini (Italy), Bouet (France), Fuglsang (Denmark), Meersmann (Belgium), Schar (Switzerland) and Matthews (Australia). 

9 or 10 riders have formed a group which is abaut 11 seconds ahead of the field. The lead group now has just over three and a half minutes on them all.

113km remaining from 261km

The chase group, with some 11 seconds on the field is:    
Cummings (GB), Flecha (Spain), Nocentini (Italy), Meersman (Belgium), Matthews (Australia), Bouet (France), Schär (SwitzerlandI), Beppu (Japan), and Fuglsang (Denmark).

The chase group is moving well and is now 2:33 back. We don't have a new time for the peloton.

It looks like race over for Mark Cavendish. He's dropped off the back of the peloton on the  Bemelerberg climb. He will no doubt climb off at the feed zone. His year as world champion is officially over.

120km remaining from 261km

The first three riders have abandoned the race, including Slovakia's Martin Velits.

It is interesting that there are no Dutch riders in either of the two groups.

Duggan leads the first group up the Cauberg once again.

The 9 chasers are working hard to get across to the 11 breakaways. This race is about to get very interesting.

Now the rest of them are on their way up the Cauberg.

The lead group has now finished the third lap. Let's see what the time gaps will be.

Here comes the chase group. They are only 1:49 back, and the peloton is not far either.

Peloton at 2:17.

Alejandro Valverde of Spain, who has returned from a doping ban in top form, could do well today.. Amongst his many wins this year he can claim stage wins at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, finishing seecond overall in the latter.  Again, ths is the kind of course that is good for him. But like Gilbert, he also has teammates who are equally good candidates for the win.

It must also be noted that Valverde fainted after lunch on Friday, but says he is fine and “in perfect condition to race.”

We have been seeing a lot of blue at the head of the peloton, and it is the blue of Belgium. They have two top riders here today, either one of whom could go for the win: Gilbert and Boonen.

Reigning World Champion Mark Cavendish (GB) sees the race ending late this afternoon with the sprint of a small group – but without him.  This hilly course is not his thing at all, which he acknowledges. However, there was never any question as to his participating, as a matter of respect.

Cavendish has finally made his way to the top of the Cauberg. We expect him to abandon now. And indeed he does, but first he poses for a photo with a Colombia soigneur.

97km remaining from 261km

It is no longer so sunny, and the wind is picking up.

We see Christopher Froome (GB) for the first time today, but at the far end of the field.

Spain has sent a nine-man squad to the race start, and five of them are potential winners. Too mny leaders? They don't see it that way and are in fact ready to go for gold.

Chrisopher Horner of the USA rode the Worlds here in 1998, and is doing the same again. He knows that there is "nowhere to ease back" on this course.

The Cauberg is there again. Contador leads the field and pushes the tempo. The peloton is still quite large.

89km remaining from 261km

The chase group is 1:10 back.

And the peloton -- now led by the Belgians again -- is at 1:42.

A year ago hardly anyone had heard of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke. Now he is leading the British team.

Meersman is hanging at the back of the field the whole team. Just keeping an eye on things for his team...

Luca Paolini drops back to the Italian tam car for a quick chat with national coach Paolo Bettini.

GB's Alex Dowsett, who had dropped back from the peloton, has now abandoned.

Howes, in the break group, must be preparing for action: he strips off his arm warmers.

89km remaining from 261km

The field is at 1:27. Laurens Ten Dam of the Netherlands leads that field, with the Dutch and Belgians sharing the work.

We now see raindrops at the race for the first time, not good news.

The peloton now listed at only 56 seconds back.

Dries Devenyns drops out of the field. His work is done for the day.

Italy is known for its cycling traditions, and one is on show here today. Moreno Moser is on the team here -- his uncle Francesco Moser is a past World Champion.

Once again, the Cauberg. It doesn't seem to be getting any easier through familiarity.

Contador jumps from the field, taking a handful of Dutch riders with him.

Wiggins is of course not the only one to lose contact.

It lools like we have about 30 riders in the chase group now, with a bunch having come up with Contador. In fact, they have also caught the lead group. But the peloton is at 29 seconds.

Matti Breschel of Denmark is the next to abandon.

80km remaining from 261km

Contador eats an energy bar and salutes the tv camera.

58 seconds now for the group. Will they be able to stay away?

We are working on getting those names, it just takes a while!

An Australian leads the field now, with the Belgians and Dutch very close at hand.

The gap is inded growing, now at 1:11 as they start up the Bemelerberg again.

Spaniard Pablo Lastras leads the first group over the top.

196km remaining from 261km

Zdenek Stybar is one of the victims - well, not hime but either a pedal or shoe.

The group of 29 is:

Contador is "jefe" of this lead group, making sure they work together and more importantly, stay away.

Roman Kreuziger is hit by a mechanical. Not good timing.

Looks like we are at the Cauberg again! And the Spaniards are leading the way. From the helmet, we would say that must be Flecha.

Rigobeto Uran leads a small grup which has broken from the field. Gilbert is right behind him.

11 or 12 riders are in the Gilbert group, but with more joining them.

Contador leads the group over the finsh line. Four laps to go!

The Gilbert group has been caught by the peloton, which is now only 52 seconds back.

The riders didn't have much time to grab bidons or snacks at the last feed zone, they are simply going too fast. So the neutral supply wagon is getting a lot of calls at the moment.

For the first time today we see the Germans at the head of the field. For whom are they riding -- multiple Vuelta stage winner John Degenkolb or Classics specialist Fabian Wegmann?

Five riders have now fallen back out of the lead group: Duggan (USA), Beppu (JPN), Buts (UKR), Ferrari (URU) und Mezgec (SLO)

Austria is now down to one rider, as we understand that Brändle and Schorn have abandoned.

Cataldo leads the group at the intermediate time check. We are not sure what the gap is. One source says it is about a minute, another says 42 seconds.

Lots and lots of fans along this course.

We have another source that says 43 seconds, so with two at about that time, we will take it.

Wiggins, Froome, Phinney all have dropped out. Plus quite a number of others.

52km remaining from 261km

Around this familiar corner and up the Cauberg once more! The Spaniards lead the way, Flecha again.

Flecha is not sparing anything as he drives the grou up this climb. Voeckler is on second wheel, with Tiernan-Locke behind him.

The Belgians are moving to head of things -- don't want to see their chances slip away.

Contador at the rear of the group. We aren't too worried about him, though.

A crash in the field! Many riders down and some injuries we are afraid. That will increase the gap.

A number of riders need new bikes or tires. Someone is limping across the road. The gap is now 50 seconds, but of course the peloto is much smaller.

The field has in fact shattred. Many Dutch riders were caught up and are now trying to catch up.

That's it for Susan today. Steve will take you to the finish.

We're into the final three laps of the race now, with the race still wide open. Will this break stay away or will the race reshuffle again?

There are now only 17 riders in lead group. Isaiachec, Schär, Smukulis, Caraldo, lastras, Bouet and Matthews have all been dropped.

Flecha is still working hard to keep the move away. France and Italy are helping him but others ridersre lookingback down the road for the peloton.

It's great to see Alex Howes of the USA still in the front group. He did a similar ride in this year's Amstel Gold Race.

The gap is down to 36 seconds.

40km remaining from 261km

Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) was delayed by the crash and is chasing at over a minute down.

As the break passes the windmill, the peloton gets closer and closer.

There are exactly 60 riders in the peloton, chasing the 17 riders up front.

The break is on the Cauberg again. Will Contador attack?

The peloton is just behind them and can see them.

Germany kick off the surge to close the gap but Contaor has lined-out the break.

Ouch! the peloton is lined-out in pursuit of the break.

The break is waiting for the peloton despite Voeckler calling for the riders to work together.

25km remaining from 261km

70 riders crossed the line together with two laps to go.

The next group of chasers are at 23 seconds.

Spain's Samuel Sanchez attacks and is followed by Allan Davis and the rest of the peloton.

Big names in the front include John Degonkolb (Germany), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), Oscar Freire (Spain), Heinrich Haussler (Australia), Tom Boonen (Belgium), Peter Sagan (Slovakia), Ben Swift (Great Britain),Moreno Moser and Vincenzo Nibali (Italy), Simon Gerrans (Australia), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) and Rigoberto Uran (Colombia).

Other riders are also getting back on from behind.

The riders are on the Bemelberg now, with Great Brtiain leading. But now Andrew Talansky (USA) attacks, followed by Ian Stannard (Great Britain). 

With a lap and a half to go, there are 91 riders left at the head of the race.

This race will surely explode next time up the Cauberg.

The duo up front have 13 seconds on the peloton.

The two are digging into a stuff head/sind wind. This will hurt.

The big nations are hesitating behind, as a German riders waves his teammates forward.

Now the fighting begins for the front slots on the descent ready to swing onto the Cauberg.

Here we go. The Cauberg!

Germany leading the chase but Tiernan-Locke of Great Britain is there too.

Stannard drops Talansky but the peloton is there too.

All the big names come up as the race comes back together. Nibali is on the front now.

Nibali attacks hard!

But Gilbert refuses to come through.

16km remaining from 261km

Nibali goes again, trying to force a split but Stannard blocks. 

All the big names are in the front group. This race could be decided in a split second.

Boonen is sat at the back, stretching. He looks tired but he's still there. Can he hang on next time up the Cauberg?

Peter Sagan is also there, while the Belgian team control the front with four riders.

Just 48 riders are left in the front group. Degonkolb is there for Germany.

Spain is also gathering at the front as the Bemelberg climb approaches.

Here comes Italy too. They will be riding for Moreno Moser and Nibali.

10km remaining from 261km

8km remaining from 261km

Up front Contador is setting a fast pace.

The front group is getting smaller and smller.

5km remaining from 261km

Stannard is positioning Tiernan-Locke for the descent to the Cauberg, as the Italians hit the front.

The riders are packed tight across the narrow road. Everyone wants to be near the front.

Sagan is there, Gerrans, Dan Martin and Nico Roche too.

Paolini drags Moser to the front and Nibali joins him.

3km remaining from 261km

Here we go. They hit the Cauberg!

Nibali leads on the steep section but there are four Belgian be hind him. Gilbert attacks!

He's suffering as Kolobnev and Boasson Hagen chase.

1km remaining from 261km

Gilbert has 100 metres lead.

Valverde tries to chase but the others sit on him.

1km remaining from 261km

Gilbert eases up and celebrates. He is the 2012 world champion!

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) takes second, with Valverde third.

Gilbert had to go on the Cauberg and he did it. He got such a gap that the others hesitated and refused to work together and chase.

Gilbert finished four seconds ahead of Boasson Hagen, with Valverde at five seconds.

John Degenkolb (Germany) was fourth, Lars Boom (Netherlands) was fifth.

Gilbert powered up the Cauberg on the big ring.

The Belgian fans are already celebrating. The country will be united tonight as it celebrates with a few beers.

Gilbert is close to tears as he talks about becoming world champion.

The crowd chants 'Philippe Gilbert, Philippe Gilbert' as he pulls on the rainbow jersey and his gold medal.

Top ten result:

Thanks for following the Cyclingnews live coverage from the world championships. Check back soon for a full race report, huge photo galleries and interviews.

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