Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde has stood on the World Road Championships podium six times before, now he's finally stood atop it. The veteran won the title at the eleventh attempt in a hard-fought contest.
Valverde sprinted to his first world title after a tough, mountainous race of 6 hours, 46 minutes through the Austrian Alps, including a final climb with a maximum gradient of 28 per cent.
The 38-year-old led a group of four in the final kilometer, and he just remained ahead in the sprint, with Romain Bardet of France taking the silver. Michael Woods, the first Canadian in the top three since Steve Bauer in 1984, won the bronze, while Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands placed fourth.
"This is the greatest day of my career. It means everything to me to take this victory," Valverde said after becoming the first Spanish world champion since Oscar Freire won the title in 2004.
The win came 15 years after Valverde won silver in this race, an accomplishment he repeated in 2005. He also came third four times, in 2006 and three years in a row from 2012-14.
Valverde rode himself in to a strong position when he went ahead of the pack with Bardet and Woods for the final five kilometers. While the three built a lead of 30 seconds, Dumoulin managed to catch up for the last 1,500 meters.
However, the Dutchman lacked the power to mount another attack, and Valverde held off his other rivals to clinch the win.
Peter Sagan had his three-year winning streak snapped when he quit the race with 90 kilometers left. The Slovakian sprint specialist struggled on the 258-kilometer course, which included 4,681 meters of climbing and was regarded as one of the toughest world championship courses in decades.