Road Worlds: Philippe Gilbert rides away from rivals on the Cauberg and into the rainbow jersey

Edvald Boasson Hagen second with Alejandro Valverde third. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke 19th after terrific ride

by Simon_MacMichael   September 23, 2012  

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Philippe Gilbert of Belgium is the new world road race champion, attacking on the final climb of the Cauberg to win a thrilling race in the Dutch in Valkenburg this afternoon. No-one was able to catch the Belgian, winner of the Amstel Gold Race here in 2010 and 2011, once he accelerated away from a front group of fewer than 50 riders that hit the bottom of that climb for the final time. Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway came second, 4 seconds behind the winner, with Spain's Alejandro Valverde just behind in third.

Great Britain's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke finished 19th after riding a terrific race in which he had followed an attack from Alberto Contador to bridge across from the peloton to catch two groups further ahead on the road. Belgium were among the countries that worked hard to chase that dangerous looking front group down, and with two laps of the closing circuit left, a front group of around 70 riders had formed.

Andrew Talansky of the USA attacked inside the penultimate lap and was joined by Britain's Ian Stannard, who dropped his fellow attacker on the Cauberg but was caught by the chasing bunch at the top of the climb. On the day when Mark Cavendish's reign as world champion came to an end, the British rider was the consummate team player today, putting in some big turns at the front of the bunch during the first half of the race to keep an early break in check.

Gilbert had proved almost unbeatable in one-day races during 2011, but struggled to recapture that form during the opening months of this season following his switch from Omega Pharma-Lotto to BMC Racing.

Two stage victories during the Vuelta, which finished a fortnight ago, proved that he was back on form and it wouldn’t have been lost on his rivals that both came on stages featuring tough finishing climbs in Barcelona and Lastrilla.

It took a big effort from Gilbert’s Belgium team mates to ensure that the race came back together ahead of a frantic final two laps, however.

With the pace high early on, it took a while for a break to become established, with a wave of attacks brought back until Vitaliy Buts of Ukraine and Gatis Smukulis of Latvia got clear almost 40 kilometres into the 267 kilometre race.

Nine more men managed to jump across, including strong riders such as Spain’s Pablo Lastras, Jerome Coppel of France, Italy’s Dario Cataldo and the Colombian, Winer Anacona.

With Great Britain setting the pace at the front of the peloton, including Cavendish spending long turns on the front,  thereby putting an end to any doubt that he might have harboured thoughts of an unlikely win today, the lead group had an advatage of 5 minutes as it headed onto the Cauberg ahead of the first of ten laps of a 16.5 kilometre closing circuit.

Towards the end of the second of those ten laps, on the third climb of the Cauberg, Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha launched an attack that was followed by Great Britain’s Steve Cummings, with other riders including Italy’s Rinaldo Nocentini and France’s Maxime Bouet also getting across.

Belgium, who had only got Gianni Meersman into that move, were now forced to chase hard at the front of the bunch, and while the Flecha group was closing in on the earlier break, it too was being reeled in by the main group.

By now, Cavendish’s work for the day, and his reign as Britain’s second ever world champion, was at an end. He’d led the peloton up the Cauberg on the first two climbs but dropped off the back of the bunch ahead of the third ascent, his earlier efforts earning him warm applause from the crowd as he headed up it for the final time before dismounting.

With a little under 100 kilometres to go and just over six laps remaining, it seemed as though both groups at the head of the race would be swallowed up by the peloton, but suddenly Alberto Contador followed team mate Flecha’s earlier lead by attacking from the main bunch on the Cauberg, several riders managing to respond to the Vuelta champion’s move.

By the time the leaders crossed the line with six laps to go, positioned 1.7 kilometres beyond the summit of the Cauberg, the two earlier sets of escapees had been joined by the Contador group, which contained France’s Thomas Voeckler, Switzerland’s Michael Albasini and Great Britain’s Jonathan Tiernan Locke.

Now, there was a group of 24 riders off the front of the race, with some countries well represented, including Italy with four riders, France and Spain with three apiece, and Great Britain and Switzerland with two each, and with the group riding hard, it briefly looked like this might be the decisive move as it built a lead of a minute over the chasing peloton.

Led by Belgium, Australia, Colombia and Germany, the main group began to chip away at that advantage, however, and made the catch with two laps remaining, but not before a big crash in the main field forced a further split, and it was a group of less than 50 riders that headed towards the finale that would end with Gilbert’s victory.

“It’s incredible to have won the world title,” reflected the Belgian afterwards. “It’s still difficult to comprehend, it’s all very emotional. I’m especially happy to win here, so close to my home. It’s a local race for me.

“The Belgian team did a huge amount of work and so we deserved this. Bjorn Leukemans positioned me perfectly at the foot of Cauberg. I looked back quickly and then I attacked. The Cauberg climb really suits me and I can use the big ring. I took advantage of that. I got a gap similar to when I won the Amstel Gold Race, so it was perfect.”

Speaking of his claiming the runner-up spot, Norway’s Boasson Hagen commented: It was very good to get second place and we were close to gold. My team mates rode well and did a great job. I am very grateful to them. Gilbert was very strong and there was nothing I could do,"

However, there was talk of a big row in the Spanish camp following the race with Oscar Freire, seeking an outright record fourth victory, said to be incandescent with rage at Valverde, who was apparently supposed to lead him out in the sprint – although quite how that would have changed the result, with Gilbert eventually winning at a canter, remains unclear.

I'm annoyed because my bronze could have been gold,” said Valverde. “I did the right thing chasing after Gilbert. I saw he was going and I reacted, even if it was late.
“We were going to work for Oscar Freire but when I saw that Gilbert had opened a big gap, I decided to attack too.

“I think I did the right thing. It just wasn't possible to follow Gilbert when he made his break. We just didn't get it together.

“There was no collaboration between any of us because we were not far from the line and each of us had a medal in our heads."

Freire’s emotions in the heat of the moment are perhaps understandable. Had he won for an unprecedented fourth time – the 36-year-old’s previous wins came in Verona in 1999 and 2004 and Lisbon in 2001 – he would have carried on in the peloton for another year to show off the rainbow jersey. Having missed out today, however, it could well be that he has ridden his last race.

UCI men's elite road world championship  

1  Philippe GILBERT       BEL     06:10:41
2  Edvald BOASSON HAGEN   NOR           +4
3  Alejandro BELMONTE     ESP           +5
4  John DEGENKOLB         GER All at same time
5  Lars BOOM              NED
6  Allan DAVIS            AUS
7  Thomas VOECKLER        FRA
8  Ramunas NAVARDAUSKAS   LTU
9  Sergio HENAO           COL
10 Oscar FREIRE           ESP
11 Rui COSTA              POR
12 Tom BOONEN             BEL
13 Oscar GATTO            ITA
14 Peter SAGAN            SVK
15 Fredrik KESSIAKOFF     SWE
16 Koen DE KORT           NED
17 Michael ALBASINI       SUI
18 Assan BAZAYEV          KAZ
19 Jonathan TIERNAN-LOCKE GBR
20 Lars Petter NORDHAUG   NOR

9 user comments

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Really pleased for Phil Gil. One of my fav riders.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 16:43

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JTL 19th, great ride but jeez! what a fantastic ride by Stannard. Gilbert showed that power was the key in the last 2K, brilliant World Champs, loved every minute.

antonio

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posted by antonio [923 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 16:55

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Congrats to Phillipe! Crushing finish and a well deserved year in the rainbow for him!

Was really really pulling for Tommy V to tear off a slice of that Voekler magic but couldn't be happier for Gilbert.

"because a goal without a plan is just a wish"

posted by bikeyourbest [18 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 17:21

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Great race. Good coverage by the BBC as well. Inspired choice of commentator too in Mr Millar.

posted by banjokat [20 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 20:05

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Super Domestique wrote:
Really pleased for Phil Gil. One of my fav riders.

Yep, was chuffed for him, and for the sport. Couldn't ask for a more deserving winner.

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posted by Simon E [1888 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 20:36

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banjokat wrote:
Great race. Good coverage by the BBC as well. Inspired choice of commentator too in Mr Millar.

agreed, just a shame they (UCI) seem to have used the same broadcaster as the olympics road race, limited on screen time gaps/distances etc, no road noise from on-moto mic's made for sterile viewing if you ask me compared to other races

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posted by charlie bravo [47 posts]
24th September 2012 - 8:14

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Brilliant ride by Stannard, perhaps he is the answer to Sky's classics rider problem. Well done to JTL as well, showed he has the pedigree, lets hope he can kick on from here next season.

I thinbk a mention for Cav is required as well. He knew it wasn't his type of course but instead of just sitting in the peloton he gave his all on the front Applause

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2642 posts]
24th September 2012 - 10:47

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Lack of info wasn't exactly great, was it.

I thought that Millar's insightful observations during BBC coverage served to highlight even more starkly than usual Hugh Porter's complete lack of comprehension of road racing.

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posted by Simon E [1888 posts]
24th September 2012 - 13:03

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A great race what I saw. Really well done to JLT and Stannard in the close. JLT really did look like a minnow among sharks though (size wise not performance).

Pleased it was Gilbert, a Valverde win after Vino's Olympic Gold would have been a VERY big disappointment.

I do wonder about Mr Porter's commentary at times too. In ToB he made some very obvious errors about what riders were doing. He is getting on a bit though but has a great voice and enthusiasm. Just need someone like DM with him to put the technical comments correct!

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posted by bikeandy61 [385 posts]
24th September 2012 - 13:11

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