Veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde ended years of frustration to win the world championships road race on Sunday after outpacing France’s Romain Bardet and Canada’s Michael Woods in a thrilling sprint for the finish line.
The trio had boosted their victory chances after crossing the summit of the notoriously difficult Hottinger hill ‘Hell’ climb, featuring one steep section at a whopping 29 percent gradient, to leave key rivals in their wake.
And despite being joined with a little over one kilometre to go by Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, Valverde held his nerve inside the final metres to race unchallenged to the finish line, where he beat Bardet by a bike length.
A breathless Valverde, who finished runner-up in 2003, broke down with the emotion of finally securing the rainbow jersey — arguably the most prestigious prize in the sport.
“It’s incredible, after all these years, struggling for the world title and to finally get it,” he said.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am for the effort of the whole Spain team and the work they did too.”
As soon as the quartet came into the final kilometre the Spaniard had looked the most likely to win. Both Bardet and Woods are stronger climbers while all-rounder Dumoulin also lacks Valverde’s top-end finishing speed.
“I knew I was possibly the strongest and was waiting for someone to make a move,” he said.
Pre-race favourite, Julian Alaphilippe of France, Briton Simon Yates and Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and the last of the Colombians were dropped on the steep gradients of the final climb.
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