Philippe Gilbert Wins World Cycling Championship

By Chris Jasurek
Epoch Times Staff
Created: September 23, 2012 Last Updated: September 24, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
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Philippe Gilbert of Belgium celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Men's Elite Road Race on day eight of the UCI Road World Championships. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Philippe Gilbert of Belgium celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Men's Elite Road Race on day eight of the UCI Road World Championships. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert turned around a terrible year with a winning ride in the UCI Elite Men’s Road Race World Championship Sunday, rocketing away from the field on the final climb of the 166-mile course and cruising to the win with a four-second margin.

Gilbert, who won almost every race he entered in 2011, won almost nothing in 2012, finally grabbing a few stages in the Vuelta a España. He came to the UCI Worlds as support for Tom Boonen, who was having a banner year, winning many One-Day Classics after having several tough years due to injuries.

The entire Belgian squad was in top form for the Worlds. They expended a lot of energy chasing down the breakaway and still had enough to swarm to the front on the final climb up the Cauberg after 164 miles of racing.

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali was the first to attack on the last climb; he put in a big burst, opened some space, then sat down to grind away up the slope. As soon as Nibali sat, it was not Tom Boonen but Philippe Gilbert who exploded past, gaining a hundred yards before anyone could react.

Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde both gave chase, but the Belgian was too powerful.

“It’s incredible to have won the world title. It’s still difficult to comprehend, it’s all very emotional. I’m especially happy to win here, so close to my home. It’s a local race for me,” Gilbert told

“The Belgian team did a huge amount of work and so we deserved this,” Gilbert continued. “Bjorn Leukemans positioned me perfectly at the foot of Cauberg. I looked back quickly and then I attacked. The Cauberg climb really suits me and I can use the big ring. I took advantage of that. I got a gap similar to when I won the Amstel Gold Race [2010 and 2011], so it was perfect.”

The 2012 UCI World Championships, held over eight days in Limburg, Netherlands, concluded with the men’s elite road race, a six-hour endurance test with 27 hills including the famous Cauberg, closing climb of the Amstel Gold one-day classic race, a six percent grade with ramps of twelve percent that the riders had to climb at the end of each of ten laps of a 10-mile circuit after a 66-mile trek through the Dutch countryside.

The course lent itself to a variety of tactics—fast enough that an early breakaway could survive, yet tough enough at the end that a late attack could succeed, with a flat final mile so that teams try to set up a bunch sprint finish.

Nations sent teams of up to nine riders, 207 in total featuring some of the world’s best: Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins for Great Britain, Vuelta winner Alberto Contador for Spain, Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal for Canada. Belgium sent a power-packed line-up centered around Tom Boonen, having an amazing comeback year. Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Colombia, USA, and Slovakia sent strong squads, the latter including the unstoppable Peter Sagan.

Various riders tried to escape the peloton in the first hour before Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine) and Gattis Smukulis (Latvia) got away; within the next 25 miles nine more riders joined to create a very strong breakaway: Pablo Lastras (Spain,) Dario Cataldo (Italy,) Tim Duggan and Alex Howes (USA,) Jerome Coppel (France,) Winner Anacona (Colombia,) Luka Mezgec (Slovenia,) Vladimir Isaichev (Russia,) Vitaliy Buts, Fabricio Ferrari (Uruguay) and Tanel Kangert (Estonia).

The leaders had a gap of six minutes halfway through the race when a nine-rider chase group took off after the breakaway. Steve Cummings (Britain,) Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain,) Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy,) Gianni Meersman (Belgium,) Michael Matthews (Australia,) Maxime Bouet (France,) Michael Schär (Switzerland,) Femi Beppu (Japan,) and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) couldn’t bridge the gap; the Belgian team pushed the pace in the peloton, as they had no one in the break or the chase group.
The pace and the distance began to take its toll: with fifty miles to go, both Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome of Great Britain fell off the back. Defending world champion Mark Cavendish, their teammate, had already retired.  

Alberto Contador launched several short attacks to bring a group of riders across to the chasers. The Vuelta winner obviously wasn’t riding for the win, but to help his Spanish teammates Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez. Contador used a huge amount of energy chasing the break.

With five laps left the chasers caught the break, forming an enormous lead group: Pablo Lastras, Alberto Contador, and Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain,) Dario Cataldo, Marco Marcato, Diego Ulissi, and Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy,) Timothy Duggan and Alex Howes (USA,) Thomas Voeckler, Maxime Bouet, and Jerome Coppel (France,) Bjorn Lukemans and Gianni Meersman (Belgium,) Winner Anacona (Colombia,) Luka Mezgec (Slovenia,) Vladimir Isaichev (Russia,) Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine,) Fabricio Ferrari (Uruguay,) Gatis Smukulis (Latvia,) Jon Tiernan-Locke and Stephen Cummings (Great Britain,) Michael Matthews (Australia,) Michael Schär (Switzerland,) Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan,) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark,) Koen De Kort and Robert Gesink (Netherlands,) and Michael Albasini (Switzerland).

With five laps to go this group had about a minute on the peloton. The gap kept shrinking and riders kept dropping back as the miles added up. With three laps left the gap held at 50 seconds but only 17 riders remained: Coppel, Voeckler, Flecha, Tiernan-Locke, Meersman, Fuglsang, Marcato, Gesink, Albasini, Ulissi, Contador, Nocentini, Cummings, Leukemans, Anacona, De Kort and Howes. Four riders trail them by 25 seconds: Isaichev, Schär, Smukilis and Cataldo. Germany and Belgium led the chase.

The peloton caught the breakaway at the start of the eighth lap; with just 20 miles to ride, a group of the 70 fastest cyclists in the world were all together fighting to win the title of best in the world.

America’s Andrew Talansky tried an attack, followed by Britain’s Ian Stannard. They were caught just before the end of the lap. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali then gave it a try, with Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, and Britain’s Jon Tiernan-Locke on his wheel; they too were caught.

Spain’s Dani Moreno tried next, followed by Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. After they were caught, Nibali tired again, with Ian Stannard and Dan Martin, Bjorn Leukemans, Spain’s Sammy Sanchez and France’s Thomas Voeckler.

By the time the peloton had caught this group, only four dozen remained; the field was getting whittled down to the most elite of the most elite. Coming into the penultimate climb up the Bemelerberg with six miles to go, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Australia, Netherlands, Germany and Italy had strong presence.

Coming to the base of the final climb, Belgium and Germany rode shoulder to shoulder, with Italy behind. Ian Stannard brought Jon Tiernan-Locke towards the front as Sergio Paolini pulled Vincenzo Nibali into the lead.

Nibali started accelerating 500 yards into the final climb. He opened a small gap and eased up to catch his breath. Right behind him followed four Belgian riders, and when the Italian sat down, Gilbert, third wheel behind Bjorn Leukemanns, stayed standing; in fact he started sprinting, streaking away from the field. No one was prepared; perhaps they were marking Tom Boonen and over looked Gilbert.

Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen was the first to react, followed by Valverde and Russia’s Alexandr Kolobnev. Kolobnev passed the other two but then faded.

Gilbert did not fade. After 166 miles he was still strong; he had time to start celebrating 200 yards from the finish line.

Germany’s John Degenkolb, fresh off an amazing five stage wins at the Vuelta, showed he can do more than just sprint, surviving the climbs and the miles to take a strong fourth-place finish. Tom Boonen finished twelfth, Peter Sagan 14th. Alexandr Kolobnev dropped to 28th in just the last half-mile. Alberto Contador came in 38th, 53 seconds down, and Andrew Talansky was the best-placed American in 43rd, 1:54 off the pace.

2012 UCI World Championship Elite Men’s Road Race






Philippe Gilbert




Edvald Boasson Hagen




Alejandro Valverde




John Degenkolb




Lars Boom




Allan Davis




Thomas Voeckler




Ramunas Navardauskas




Sergio Henao




Óscar Freire





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