Belgian superstar Philippe Gilbert won the elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Limburg, Netherlands.
The team worked so hard and everyone did a really good job. We definitely deserved to win the gold medal. I've won the Amstel Gold Race here twice so I knew I could do it today.
The 2011 world No.1 finished ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) and Alejandro Valverde (ESP) at the end of the 261km race.
Gilbert unleashed a trademark attack on the final climb up the Cauberg to gap the remains of the peloton in an instant.
Boasson Hagen and Valverde were the only two riders with the strength to respond but they left their challenge too late and Gilbert had 400 metres to savour the victory.
The 30-year old has had a difficult year after a massive 2011 in which he dominated every race he entered, but a late season change in form, including two stage victories at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, signalled a return to his best and he came into the world championships as a strong favourite.
"It's incredible. It hasn't sunk in yet. I've been dreaming of this for years," said Gilbert. "To win in Valkenburg is amazing, it's so close to home and my wife is from the Netherlands.
"The team worked so hard and everyone did a really good job today. We definitely deserved to win the gold medal. I've won the Amstel Gold Race here twice so I knew I could do it today."
Gilbert said that his bad memories from the 2010 edition when he had attacked on the final climb in Geelong, Australia, but been caught with 5km to go had been at the back of his mind.
"I was very disappointed by that defeat," he said.
"The manner of that defeat, though, served to strengthen me in a way.
"One changes every time one loses, because one has more experience. I was recalling that race during this one and it certainly played a role in my performance.
"I didn't have the right to make a mistake this time, I wouldn't have 10 similar chances for the rest of my life."
A sunny day was presented to the 203 riders from 46 different countries as the peloton left the start on journey that would be defined by the 10 climbs up the Cauberg.
A number of early attacks and small breaks that failed to stick animated the first hour of racing before 11 riders managed a selection the peloton was happy to let go.
Pablo Lastras (ESP), Dario Cataldo (ITA), Tim Duggan (USA), Alex Howes (USA), Jerome Coppel (FRA), Winner Anacona (COL), Luka Mezgec (SLO), Vladimir Isaichev (RUS), Vitaliy Buts (UKR), Fabricio Ferrari (URU), and Gatis Smukulis (LAT) rode out to a lead that reached almost six minutes.
The Great Britain team did most of the early work at the front with 2011 world champion Mark Cavendish shouldering the majority of the load.
Cavendish would eventually abandon the race with 111km to go.
The 27 year old had not been expected to be a contender for the title as the undulating 261km course was less suited to his talents than the one he won on in Copenhagen last year.
Cavendish was joined on the sidelines later in the race by Great Britain team-mates, Tour de France and Olympic time-trial champion champion Bradley Wiggins and Tour de France runner-up and Olympic time-trial bronze medallist Chris Froome, both exhausted from their long seasons.
The stage continued at a steady but fast pace until the 100km mark when the Dutch hit the front to split the peloton in half as they approached the first of 10 circuits in Valkenburg. Their efforts however, were not repaid as the peloton eventually came together after a few kilometres.
At the 120km mark a chase group containing Steve Cummings (GBR), Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP), Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA), Gianni Meersman (BEL), Michael Matthews (AUS), Maxime Bouet (FRA), Michael Schar (SWI), Fumi Beppu (JPN), and Jacob Fuglsang (DEN) then broke from the peloton, quickly crafting a gap of one minute on their former companions as the break lay two minutes and 30 seconds ahead.
Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador (ESP) then attacked on the Cauberg, bringing a number of riders along with him including Robert Gesink (NED) and Thomas Voeckler (FRA).
Contador led the bridging effort to the chase group which then swept up the original break to create a 29-man strong collective at the front of the race.
The peloton saw the danger and led by Belgium and Australia upped the pace, catching the leaders with two laps (32km) left to go.
After a flurry of attacks the final lap had less than 50 riders left to contest the final assault on the Cauberg.
Spain was well represented with Contador, Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Dani Moreno and Oscar Freire. Australia had three men in the lead group, Allan Davis, Simon Clarke and Milan-San Remo winner Simon Gerrans, while Belgium's team contained Tom Boonen and Gilbert.
Aggressive in the final kilometres, Italy's Vincenzo Nibali mounted the first first attack on the final climb of the Cauberg, but it was Gilbert who replied with a withering assault of his own to take the victory.
Elite men's road race: 261km, Limburg
1 Philippe Gilbert (BEL) 6hr 10min 41sec
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) 0:00:04
3 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) 0:00:05
4 John Degenkolb (GER)
5 Lars Boom (NED)
6 Allan Davis (AUS)
7 Thomas Voeckler (FRA)
8 Ramunas Navardauskas (LIT)
9 Sergio Luis Henao (COL)
10 Oscar Freire (ESP)