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Thor thunders to victory to bring Road World Championships to spectacular end

In the early hours of this morning, Norway’s Thor Hushovd brought the 2010 UCI Road World Championships to a close by winning the elite men’s road race after six gruelling hours in the saddle over a tough, undulating 257 km course between Melbourne and Geelong which proved too much for many of the pure sprinters such as Britain’s Mark Cavendish.

Thor Hushovd wins the men's road race (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

The 257.2 km course proved to be much more difficult than was initially anticipated before the championships, playing into the hands of Classics men such as Philippe Gilbert and Hushovd who are able to both climb and sprint. Mark Cavendish, the world’s best pure sprinter for the past three years, had already abandoned by the time the decisive moment came on the final steep climb of Challambra Crescent with about 11 kilometres remaining. Belgium’s Björn Leukemans attacked the front of the lead group, launching teammate Gilbert – a double stage winner at last month’s Vuelta a España and the champion at the Amstel Gold classic earlier in the year – into a 14-second lead by the top of the climb. Behind him, a chase group of six formed, led by defending rainbow jersey Cadel Evans, as the sudden acceleration shattered the peloton into fragments. Hushovd had been unable to live with that initial burst, but as the group ahead battled to claw back Gilbert’s advantage (which reached a maximum of 21 seconds), he and about ten others clung on grimly and were eventually able to reintegrate as the Belgian was swallowed up with three kilometres to go.

In the final uphill sprint, Hushovd timed his attack perfectly. The 32-year old – nicknamed the ‘God of Thunder’ – held back patiently and only hit full gas in the final 100 metres as he swept past a tiring Matti Breschel to claim the rainbow jersey by nearly two bike lengths. Aussie Allan Davis was third, while Gilbert finished at the back of the lead group of 18 who were all credited with the same time.

Hushovd, the under-23 time trial champion back in 1998, was delighted to claim his first senior world title:

It is hard to understand that now I won at the Worlds. It’s a dream and sometimes I feel it’s an unreal dream. I’m speechless.

Of course, the last lap was really hard when Gilbert attacked but I think the wind was too strong out there. It was too hard to stay in front alone. I just told myself don’t make mistakes and don’t mess it up, I said to myself 100 times.

I think it was still a perfect race.

The organisers should be praised for setting a challenging road course featuring a number of short but sharp climbs that mitigated against a straightforward bunch sprint and provided considerable scope for small groups or individuals to launch dangerous attacks, keeping both the men’s and women’s races exciting and unpredictable throughout. Despite being overshadowed by the swathe of positive drugs tests during the last few days – in the space of 48 hours four Spanish riders, including three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, were reported to have provided positive doping tests – it has been an excellent championships, with lots of close and hard-fought racing.

Yesterday, Britain’s Olympic champion Nicole Cooke narrowly missed out on a medal after getting into an apparently decisive breakaway with Germany’s Judith Arndt in the final kilometres of a thrilling elite women’s road race, which featured several attacks and counter-attacks on the final loop of the Geelong circuit. As Cooke and Arndt jockeyed for position on the uphill straight, they were swallowed up in the closing metres by a small chasing pack led by Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini and Holland’s Marianne Vos. Cooke was unable to respond with her sprint in time, and finished a disappointed fourth. Time trial winner Emma Pooley featured in a number of speculative breakaways late on, but was unable to make any of them stick.

Despite disappointment in the two elite road races the British team have had a successful championships, winning gold and silver in the women’s and men’s time trials courtesy of strong rides by Pooley and David Millar, the latter beaten only by the incredible Fabian Cancellara, who claimed a record fourth rainbow jersey in the time trial discipline. Alex Dowsett, one of the favourites in the under-23 time trial, finished well down the field after swapping his time trial bike for a road version midway through the race.

Men’s under-23 time trial:

1.  Taylor Phinney (USA) 42: 50.29

2.  Luke Durbridge (AUS) + 1.90

3.  Marcel Kittel (GER) +24.01

31. Alex Dowsett (GBR) +3:25.19

Elite women’s time trial:

1.  Emma Pooley (GBR) 32: 48.44

2.  Judith Arndt (GER) + 15.17

3.  Linda Villumsen (NZL) + 15.80

Elite men’s time trial:

1.  Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 58: 09.19

2.  David Millar (GBR) + 1:02.75

3.  Tony Martin (GER) + 1:12.49

Men’s under-23 road race:

1.  Michael Matthews (AUS) 4:01: 23

2.  John Degenkolb (GER) same time

3.  Taylor Phinney (USA) s/t

11. Luke Rowe (GBR) s/t

56. Jonathan McEvoy (GBR) +1:04

Alex Dowsett (GBR) DNF

Andrew Fenn (GBR) DNF

Elite women’s road race:

1.  Giorgia Bronzini (ITA) 3:32:01

2.  Marianne Vos (NED) same time

3.  Emma Johansson (SWE) s/t

4.  Nicole Cooke (GBR) s/t

9. Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) +0:03

16. Sharon Laws (GBR) +0:03

20. Emma Pooley (GBR) +0:03

29. Catherine Williamson (GBR) +1:42

Lucy Martin (GBR) DNF

Katie Colclough (GBR) DNF

Elite men’s road race:

1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) 6:21:49

2. Matti Breschel (DEN) same time

3. Allan Davis (AUS) s/t

Mark Cavendish (GBR) DNF

David Millar (GBR) DNF

Jeremy Hunt (GBR) DNF

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

4 Responses to Thor thunders to victory to bring Road World Championships to spectacular end

  1. Kitty Fondue says:

    I could only be happier about the outcome of the men’s road race if the winner had been Cancellara. I have always had a real admiration for Thor. He’s an incredible competitor – he’s smart, he’s competitive and he’s pure class. I think it’s amazing that each year he finds a way to continue being such a powerhouse. His sprinter’s legs might not have the missile power of Cavendish but his knowledge of the sport and his grit and determination means that he’s still such a force in the peloton – almost more now than his younger, faster days. I *loved* that he won the green jersey in 2009 with that audacious solo ride through the mountains to pick up intermediate sprint points – balls of steel, that man. A worthy World Champion and although my heart would be divided on a Paris-Roubaix war between him and Fabian, it would be wonderful if he did win his favourite race in the rainbow jersey.

    • Tim says:

      A great tactical win by Thor, who didn’t panic when he was unable to follow the Evans group but clawed his way back slowly, and then had the patience to delay his sprint until the last minute. You could see him just starting to put the hammer down at about 100-125m, so he was at top speed just as Breschel was starting to tire. He is definitely a smart rider, who knows how to win even when he isn’t necessarily the fastest.

      A good race to end the Worlds – although the women’s road race was even better.

  2. Sheree says:

    It was a really enthralling race from start to finish and I’m quite sure Thor will grace those hoops in the forthcoming season. I’ll be keeping a look out for him as he trains on the roads around Monaco.

    I have to say that the Australians staged a great Championships for which they should be commended. It’s a hard act for Copenhagen to follow.

    • Tim says:

      I have no doubt Thor will be a worthy wearer of the rainbow jersey, just as Cadel did with his wholehearted defence of it yesterday. It was the finish of a man who is as intelligent as he is powerful.

      Definitely looked like a great Championships. The climb of Challambra Crescent was a masterpiece of course planning, providing a springboard for so many exciting attacks. Watching the two road races certainly helped me put the chaos happening elsewhere in the cycling world to the back of my mind for a couple of days. Now it’s back to getting my head around the pharmacology … 😦

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