Cadel Evans ended Australia's long wait for cycling's coveted rainbowjersey when he pulled off a coup to win the men's road race at theworld cycling championships on Sunday.
Cadel Evans ended Australia's long wait for cycling's coveted rainbowjersey when he won the men's road race at the world cyclingchampionships on Sunday.
Evans escaped a small leading group at the foot of the Novazzanoclimb on the demanding 262.2km course and forged ahead on his own toend the hopes of a handful of arguably bigger favourites.
He grabbed Australia's first gold in the event in 6hr 56min withAlexandr Kolobnev of Russia finishing second and Joaquin Rodriguez ofSpain third at 27secs in arrears.
A former mountain biker who has come close on several occasions towinning the world title in that discipline, Evans - who lives nearbyduring the season - was only too happy to make amends.
"The finish line is three kilometres away from my home away fromhome, so to win a world title here, after having seven worldchampionship medals at home, none of which are gold, is quiteexceptional given the bad luck I've encountered this season," he said.
"I'm very proud to win the first elite world championships for Australia."
In a thrilling finale to the most anticipated one-day race of theyear former podium finishers, including Alejandro Valverde of Spain andDamiano Cunego of Italy, failed to shine.
The pair finished nearly a minute behind, with Spain's Olympicchampion Samuel Sanchez coming in fourth and Swiss Fabian Cancellara onhis wheel to claim fifth.
Evans did well to join on to the back of a nine-man group whichformed as Cancellara drove the pace hard late on the way up theAcquafresca climb, the first of two and the most difficult on the13.8km circuit which was raced 19 times.
And the Australian, who made up for a disastrous Tour de Francecampaign by finishing third on the Tour of Spain last week, tookeveryone by surprise with his well-timed burst.
Known widely in the sport as a 'clean' rider, Evans experienced hisworst ever Tour de France in July, a race in which he finishedrunner-up in 2007 and 2008.
But he quickly played down the issue regarding his ethical approach to the sport.
"I was just happy I came out on top today. I've been thinking aboutthis race for two years, and prepared for it by racing the Vuelta (Tourof Spain)."
On the last lap Kolobnev hit the Acquafresca climb on his own afterchasing down Alexandre Vinokourov but Cancellara's stunning pace on theclimb's steep 12 percent gradients that did most damage, forcing hisrivals to follow.
However, it was a move by Evans with around 10km from the finish that shook things up for good.
He surged ahead, to be followed by Kolobnev and Rodriguez, and whenthe Australian jumped away at the foot of the Novazzano they failed torespond.
Kolobnev said: "I had the legs and the power to follow Evans butwhen he attacked on that climb he left us trailing. He was just toopowerful."
The fact that Valverde and Cunego were riding further back markingeach other with Cancellara, ultimately gave Evans an extra boost.
After a mute celebration as he crossed the finish line, theAustralian then let the emotions take over as he kissed his weddingring, which he keeps around his neck, several times.
Altough next year's world championships will be held in Geelong,Australia, where he lives for three months of the year, Evans admittedthis local course provided his best chance to become world champion.
"This course suits me better than the one in Geelong and I think I proved that today," said Evans.
"It's also an answer to those criticisms that I've had, saying I never attack."
Denmark's Matti Breschel, who finished third last year, did well tofinish seventh and despite admitting he was "happy" with the end resulthe said Evans showed brains, and braun on his way to gold.
"I think Fabian (Cancellara) really deserved to win here on homeground where he was clearly the strongest," Breschel said of his Swissteammate at Saxo Bank.
"It was not the strongest, but the smartest rider who won today."
Men's road race: 262.2km, Mendrisio.
1. Cadel Evans (AUS) 6hr 56min 26sec (average: 37.777 km/h), 2.Alexandre Kolobnev (RUS) at 27, 3. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) 27, 4.Samuel Sanchez (ESP) 30, 5. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 30, 6. PhilippeGilbert (BEL) 51, 7. Matti Breschel (DEN) 51, 8. Damiano Cunego (ITA)51, 9. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) 51, 10. Simon Gerrans (AUS) 1:47, 11.Fabian Wegmann (GER) 1:47, 12. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (NOR) 1:47, 13. ChrisSorensen (DEN) 1:59, 14. Johnny Hoogerland (NED) 2:02, 15. Oscar Freire(ESP) 2:02, 16. Ivan Basso (ITA) 2:02, 17. Andre Cardoso (POR) 2:44,18. Michael Barry (CAN) 2:44, 19. Sergei Ivanov (RUS) 2:44, 20. KarstenKroon (NED) 2:50.