Favourite Philippe Gilbert duly delivered when he perfectly timed his final effort and won the cycling world championships road race on Sunday in the Netherlands.

The Belgian, who had a disappointing spring season, surged ahead on the final climb of the Cauberg and never looked back, holding off his rivals on the closing, flat part.

"I'm a local boy so it is incredible,'' he said.

Gilbert is a one-day classic specialist who eats up small, steep hills like those in Sunday's race.

"I profited from a course that suited me really well,'' he said.

Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen finished second ahead of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde at the end of a 267-km ride from Maastricht that ended with a 16.1-km loop going up the Cauberg, a 1,200-metre ascent with a 5.8 per cent gradient, 10 times.

Defending champion Mark Cavendish, who had no chance of retaining his title because of the course, pulled out exhausted after some 140 km.

The Manxman ducked a fan's sign sticking out on to the course on the inside of an uphill corner and escaped with only a sore neck.

Belgium did their best to control several breakaways, including one featuring Vuelta champion Alberto Contador and France's Thomas Voeckler, two outside bets for the win.

When the peloton regrouped on the last loop, Gilbert stayed in the safety of the bunch but his sudden burst of speed on the first part of the ascent to the Cauberg left the opposition behind. 

Source: Reuters