Hushovd wins world title as Aussies impress
Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd won his first world title as Australian Allan Davis scored the bronze medal in the men’s elite road race in Geelong on Sunday.
In a thrilling finish to the 262.7km event, Hushovd powered away on the final uphill sprint and Swede Matti Breschel was second.
Davis just held on for third ahead of Italian star Filippo Pozzato, his first world championship medal and another great result for Australia at these world titles.
The word out of the Australian camp before Sunday was that Davis, 30, had strong form and he confirmed it along the tough 700m uphill sprint to the finish on Moorabool Street.
Australia’s defending world champion Cadel Evans also rode an outstanding race, but was swamped in the last few kilometres.
The popular Hushovd is nicknamed “The God of Thunder” and is one of the world’s top sprinters, having tasted green jersey success for the points classification at the Tour de France.
A lead group of five low-profile riders formed at the start of the race in Melbourne and they built a lead of 23 minutes on the road to Geelong as the peloton let them go.
The lead was still more than 20 minutes when the leaders started the first of 11 laps of a 15.9km course in Geelong and there was a risk that they might lap the main bunch.
But the peloton stayed clear and then steadily reduced the gap, catching them well before the finish.
Evans was in the crucial chase group that formed with about 100km to go.
The group of 32 also included fellow Australians Simon Gerrans and Stuart O’Grady, as well as Hushovd.
Gerrans rode brilliantly, covering a series of moves at the head of the group and ensuring Evans was well-placed.
On the third-last lap, the lead group splintered and Evans managed to stay near the front.
The race re-formed and at the start of the last lap there were 40 riders at the front, featuring all the eventual medallists..
Pre-race favourite Philippe Gilbert of Belgium attacked on the first of two big climbs on the course and built a lead of 21 seconds.
Evans was in a small group that was catching Gilbert when the remnants of the peloton roared past and also snared the Belgian about two kilometres from the finish.
The Geelong area resident eventually finished 17th.
Australia won three medals at these world titles – Michael Matthews also won the under-23 road race and Luke Durbridge took silver in the under-23 time trial.
The men’s elite road race is the highlight of the world titles and it was held in perfect spring conditions before a huge crowd.
Davis’s previous best performance at the worlds was fifth in 2004.
He is only the third Australian medallist in the elite men’s road race, following Evans’ historic win last year and Robbie McEwen’s silver in 2002.© AAP 2013