2011 UCI world road championships, elite men, Cavendish wins
Mark Cavendish wins the 2011 elite men's world road championship. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — Mark Cavendish became Britain’s first world road race champion since Tom Simpson in 1965 when he dominated a bunch sprint to win the elite men’s race at the road world championships here Sunday.

Australian Matthew Goss finished second to take the silver with German André Greipel winning the bronze after 260km of racing. Tyler Farrar was the top American, finishing 10th in the same time as the medalists.

“We knew it was the best chance we had since San Sebastian in 1965 to bring the rainbow jersey back to Britain,” said Cavendish.

“And with the best eight riders in the race, we achieved that. It’s incredible. It’s the work of Great Britain, and I’m bringing it back.”

On a mainly flat 14km circuit that was not conducive to attacking, the first salvos came early, an eight-man breakaway forming and going on to build a maximum lead of nearly 10 minutes on the main bunch.

They were reeled in well before the finish and, in the final laps, a flurry of attacks was soon brought to heel by a miserly and determined peloton, which hit a record average speed of 45km/h for the race.

Britain, helped by Germany, had taken a firm grip early on to boost their chances of a bunch sprint for Cavendish, and their work paid off handsomely.

The team put the Isle of Man sprinter in prime position on the 500-meter uphill finish, and he found a gap inside the final 200m, powering up the inside of the barriers to beat Goss by half a wheel.

“When I kick I know whether I’m going to win or not,” said Cavendish.

Goss, who like Cavendish had to tweak his preparations after dropping out of the Vuelta a España with a virus, said his race could not have worked out better — except for one major detail.

“I don’t like being the bridesmaid! I would much rather be wearing that jersey there,” said the Australian, pointing at the rainbow stripes being worn by Cavendish, his teammate at HTC-Highroad.

2011 UCI Road World Championships, elite men, final sprint
The bunch dashes for the line. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Goss, however, was quick to pay tribute to both Britain and Australia.

“When he went, I kind of jumped on the wheel. I knew it was still a long way to the finish line and I had in the back of my mind I could get back if everything went well, but in the end I ran out of meters,” said Goss.

“You can’t dwell, his (British) team rode really strongly and you can’t take that away from them. And the team did everything for me. Big hats off to those guys, I wasn’t far away from finishing off the job.”

Reigning world champion Thor Hushovd of Norway was one of several top names who got stuck behind following a crash on the sixth lap. With the pace up front unrelenting, his group never recovered their deficit.

Before then, world number one Philippe Gilbert, who is not considered a true sprinter like Cavendish and Goss, had tried to toughen the race for the sprinters by sending his Belgian teammates on the attack.

But the pace being set meant he was given little opportunity to launch any trademark attacks. In the finale he sprinted, but could only finish 17th.

2011 UCI world road championships, elite men, Cavendish celebrates
Cavendish celebrates his rainbow jersey. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

“We tried to make the race as hard as possible but the British and the German teams controlled it pretty tightly,” said Gilbert.

“It was impossible to stay out in front without being chased down. It just proves what I said before the race, I wasn’t a favorite on this kind of course.”

It was a sentiment that Goss confirmed: “It’s really difficult to ride away on this circuit when the bunch is going that fast.”

After his key lead-out man Tony Martin and three other Germany teammates were caught behind, Greipel admitted he had to change his tactics.

“We were helping Britain in the chase up until the crash, but we had to change our plans after that,” said the German, who won his maiden Tour de France stage in July.

“It’s just a pity Tony got stuck behind. We had brought the best German team I could have for this race.”

Quick results

  • 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) 5:40:27
  • 2. Matthew Goss (AUS) same time
  • 3. Andre Greipel (GER) s.t.
  • 4. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) s.t.
  • 5. Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) s.t.

Complete results