Victorian Cadel Evans has become the first Australian to win the elite men's road race at a World Championships after an emphatic solo attack saw him cross the finish line in Mendrisio, Switzerland at the end of the 262.2 kilometre race, 27 seconds ahead of second placed Alexandr Kolobnev of Russia with Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver of Spain third.
"I don't quite believe it - I have seven World Chapionship medals at home from junior, Under 23 and the elite mounatin bike relay and never won a gold," said an overwhelmed Evans who broke down in tears of joy and relief after his victory. "This is my home away from home... this course really suits me and history obviously agrees.
"Golly what a weekend for Geelong," said Evans who is a Geelong AFL team supporter and has now given the Victorian city even more cause to celebrate. Geelong and Melbourne will host the UCI Road Cycling World Championships next year and they now have a homegrown World Champion to model the rainbow jersey.
Evans launched his solo escape over the final climb of the course leaving behind a well credentialled group, including both the time trial and road race Olympic Champions, in his wake. For nine months of the year Evans lives in Stabio, on the Swiss - Italian border, just five kilometres from today's finish line with his Italian born wife Chiara Passerini.
After crossing the line he kissed his wedding ring which he wears on a chain around his neck when he's racing and he sought out Chiara in the crowd after being presented with his medal to collapse in tears in her arms.
The first half of the race saw a lead group of eight riders go clear, at one stage by almost ten minutes. While the peloton was happy to leave this group in front that changed when a more dangerous combination of riders broke away from the bunch in pursuit. More riders, including Australia's Michael Rogers, launched a counter attack and it seemed this eventual group of around 30 riders might contest the finish.
"Michael was in there and a did a great job of being there and I thought it was going to be up to him to do the result for the country today," said Evans.
Italy had the numbers in front to be dangerous but some of the heavyweights, including Evans, were missing so the peloton began to chase. Australians Stuart O'Grady, Wesley Sulzberger and Simon Clarke buried themselves on the front of the chase to bring Evans and Simon Gerrans back into contention.
"This year, and it was Neil Stephen's doing, he wanted to hold back and wait till later," said Evans of the Australians strategy for the race. "When that big group went 95 km to go I thought maybe the race was over.
"Four italians were in front, 40 guys and a long way up there, I thought for a moment, (this is) one year a really early break goes (and succeeds)."
But it was reeled in and from there it was up to Evans.
"I only just made the (decisive break) group in the very last moment and used my head and legs and experience from there onwards," he explained. "The world's been telling me for years I can't win big races, can't win one day races, because my job is to win stage races, and then today I come out and win the World Championship, I don't quite believe it."
Gerrans finished tenth at 1min47sec.
Evans gold medal comes after Jack Bobridge opened the Australian medal tally with another gold in Wednesday's U23 time trial and the two victories saw Australia finish on top of the medal table as the only nation to claim two titles. Australia also topped the medal table this year at the Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Canberra last month and at the Track World Championships in Poland in March.
Australia's only other elite road World Champion has been Michael Rogers who won the time trial three times in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Australian Jack Hoobin won the amateur road race in 1950 but Evans is the first to climb onto the podium's top step in the road race since the professional and amateur ranks merged in 1995.