Primavera winner Matt Goss (Australia) fought back from illness to an inspired silver and Andre Greipel (Germany) rounded out a podium of sprint specialists.
PEZ pedalled away from the camper van at 09:00 to start a day that didn’t disappoint.
The stats favoured Phil Gilbert, Belgium has won the Worlds 25 times; then the Italians on 20 and it’s a long way back to France and The Netherlands in third spot with seven wins each.
A Belgian last won in 2005 with Tom Boonen, the Italians in 2008 with Alessandro Ballan, the French with Laurent Brochard (no comment) in 1997 and it’s a long time way back to 1985 when Joop Zoetemelk last won for The Netherlands.
Phil can win, but so can at least two Italians (Bennati & Visconti), perhaps two Frenchmen (Chavanel & Voeckler) and just maybe Lars Boom can take The Netherlands back to the Raas/Knetemann glory days.
The orangemen also have two men who we’re counting on to enliven the race – Johny Hoogerland & Wout Poels.
Our first sight live is the end of lap one with 42 K down, seven are clear, a Frenchman leads, Croatia are there, Kazakhstan too – the sun shines, the seconds tick by and the bunch flies past, strung out, relaxed but brisk.
We’re pedalling the course today, first stop off is at the double right hander at the bottom of the drop off from the finish, the gap is growing as Lastras gaps his amigos on the bends.
There’s a Luxembourger in there, a Frenchman, a Kazakh, Lastras and three others – it would be nice if the speaker gave us the break composition, never mind.
Big Ian Stannard ‘keeps an eye’ for GB at the head of the peloton.
The weather is glorious, it’s cooler in the trees but as soon as we exit the forest, the band is ‘getting down on it’ – and there was us thinking the Danes were conservative. The break is moving well, tidy, through and off and the gap yawns.
‘My girl’ and ‘Fire’ blasts out live as GB still police the front, The Netherlands look jumpy, lined out just behind.
We have to miss out the little hill and take a short cut, no room for our bikes – c’est la vie.
The fourth passage, Roux is one of ‘les bleus’ in the break and French ain’t playing at this, they have a blackboard man beside the road keeping their equipe abreast of what’s happening – 8:00 minutes he tells the boys.
GB are in line ahead – oow! it’s early for that.
The break swishes by us for the fifth time, they look cool, but it’s still early, we’re on the narrow but fast section at around half distance.
GB still lead the chase, the Germans are there – and the Belgians.
We make the gap high seven minutes.
The sign says 40 kph max but sixth time past the average race speed is nudging up towards 47 – GB still do the hard labour as the gap to the break goes below seven minutes.
You have to admire their commitment – Cav must have told the boys that today is the day.
If only those Belgians and Italians weren’t such monkeys.
And as if to illustrate Danish commercial sense, every wee girl who lives on the course has a cake stand – Bjarne Riis must be proud.
Our next stop is on a downhill, despite the speaker telling us that the break is fragmenting, they look good to us; Christian Poos is in there for Luxembourg and Tanel Kangert for Estonia – the Kazakh is Iglinskiy.
Chrono beast Grabsch of Germany leads the rapid chase on the seventh time past us; GB are still up there but Jez is off the back – a mechanical, or too much work, too early ?
The sun beats down and still the break ploughs on and on – let’s hope they’re drinking enough.
USA, GB and Australia are all near the front – Belgium ?
Chatting in the middle of the bunch as we make it the eighth time we’ve been passed – half distance.
Sausage time, but damn ! here’s the break, again – they’re not messing.
I hope the U23 and ladies are watching this.
And there’s a group in no man’s land – Van Summeren and Kaisen for Belgium and we think Clark for Australia and Paolini for Italy plus a Frenchman.
The French haven’t been getting much wrong in the way of tactics, this weekend.
Nine times we’ve seen them as GB still pound the hard, hot road at the head of things.
We’ve hardly finished our sausage as the break flies by again, it was 3:45 to the chasers last time – this time it’s 2:40 as Simon Clark drives hard.
He’s come along way from the UiV amateur six days of a few years ago.
The chasers have 55 seconds on the GB-led bunch.
Farrar, Schleck are down and there’s talk that Hushovd has problems.
The break passes for the last time – they’re doomed, Simon Clark and Van Summeren drive like demons just 35 seconds back – they still have 55 seconds on the bunch where GB burn watts like they grow on trees.
Cav sits behind his boys; you have to admire him – “this is my race, these are my boys, what are gonna do about it ?”
And there’s a split – it’s over for maybe 40 unless it eases.
Frank Schleck rides past – all over for him too.
And here’s the race for the dozenth time – the breaks have merged and Anthony Roux is digging the last dregs of energy from deep within.
GB are 1:22 back – how long can they do this ?
There’s the split – Thor is stone last; his face says it all.
The crowd is thick getting back round to the finish – and in between laps you need sounds, natch !
And the Belgian hobo has taken over the bus stop !
It’s Froome’s turn on the rack as we battle through the crowds to the finish – damn ! We missed two to go.
Michael Barry (Canada) crashed hard and retired, Kris has a few words of comfort for him at the Canadian pits – they go way back to the US Saturn team.
Team Italia don’t look happy; ‘why is that Cavendish still there ?’
The bell lap and we’re at 300 to, three are away – Tommy, Sorensen and a Belgian.
But GB had nitrous oxide for their last bottles and Cav is right there.
We get to the line and watch the monitors; GB, Wiggins must be dead, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Suisse, GB, Italia – and they’re at the bottom of the hill.
GB lead it out, Cav’s there, he can win it – he’s done it !
I’m stunned, I knew he could, but he’s done it, he’s really done it !
Picture time, hop the fence:
Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, David Millar – heroes all.
Freire and Haussler are wasted, Gilbert has to face the media.
Greipel, Matt and Cav get their medals – but Cav gets a kiss too, from his sweetheart.
And if you think it’s ‘just a bike race’ take a look at Greg Van Avermaet’s face.
Last word ?
A man who knows about these things, Androni manager, Gianni Savio; ‘Many, many compliments to the GB team, they rode a very, very good race.
They rode on the front all day, they were unbelievable – and Cavendish’s sprint wasn’t just strong, it was intelligent.
I don’t think Italy did anything wrong – Paolini in particular rode a very good race.
But no complaints about the team, Paolo Bettini did the best job he could.’
Ah well – only 12 months ’til Limburg, we hope you enjoyed the Worlds as much as we did bringing them to you.