Mark Cavendish lined up London 2012 Olympic gold after being crowned the first British road race world champion for 46 years.
The Manx Missile made history in Copenhagen yesterday as the first British cyclist to win cycling’s blue riband World Championships since Tom Simpson in 1965.
Cavendish, 26, romped home ahead of Aussie Matt Goss and Germany’s Andre Greipel in a bunch sprint finish.
“There couldn’t be any other result after the way the guys rode today,” Cavendish told Eurosport television as he paid tribute to his team-mates.
“I’m so proud.”
Britain had taken a grip on the race early and, after a finale which saw no incisive attacks, Cavendish was left on his own to power up the inside of the barriers on the 500m uphill finish where he beat Goss by half a wheel.
Greipel was given the nod by judges for the bronze medal after a photo finish decision with Swiss Fabian Cancellara.
HD video covering final moments of World Champs:
Reigning world champion Thor Hushovd of Norway was one of several top names who got stuck in a second chasing peloton following a crash on the sixth of the race’s 17 14 km-long laps, which began after a 22 km ride from the city centre.
Among the other pre-race contenders Spaniard Oscar Freire – who had been aiming for a record fourth world crown – finished ninth, two places ahead of Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Philippe Gilbert, the world No 1, had sent Belgian team-mates up to mark attacks and to toughen the pace for the chasing peloton.
But in the end the main bunch came back together on the final lap, depriving the Belgian of the chance to attack. He eventually finished in 17th place.
The first salvos in the race came early, an eight-man breakaway forming and going on to build a maximum lead of nearly 10 minutes on the main bunch.
Due to his lack of sheer sprinting power, Gilbert had counted on resting as much as possible by sending his team-mates up to the front.
And while Olivier Kaisen covered his bases by joining the early eight-man escape group, fellow Belgian Johan Van Summeren joined a counter-attack with seven laps to go.
A lap further on, Hushovd’s and many others’ hopes were dashed when a crash caused a split in the peloton. With the pace unrelenting up ahead, his group never recovered their deficit.
Welshman Geraint Thomas was also stuck behind, but his absence was soaked up by a British team which seemed intent on delivering Cavendish to the finish in optimal position.
Although a number of attacks came in the closing laps, including an attempt by French Tour de France star Thomas Voeckler, the pace being set by Britain’s David Millar and Bradley Wiggins at the front of the peloton made sure they never got far.
While Millar dropped off with around 10kms to race, Wiggins led the team round the final bend.
Despite the Australians taking over on the 300m stretch leading to the uphill home straight, Cavendish crucially stayed near the front and drove hard for the line with 200m to go.
Post race interview with newly crowned World Champion, Mark Cavendish