The Spanish Alejandro Valverde became the new cycling world champion at the age of 38, on the demanding route through the Austrian city of Innsbruck, beating the French climber Romain Bardet.
Valverde was the strongest of the quartet that faced the final sprint after 258.5 kilometers from the start. Canadian Michael Woods was third ahead of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.
The Murcian runner, who was second in… 2003, finally achieved one of the few remaining victories in his career. He had been on the podium at the World Cup six times, and now he will finally be able to wear the rainbow jersey for next year.
A specialist in the classics for the Ardennes (5 times winner of the Walloon Arrow, 4 times of the Liege-Bastoña-Liège), Valverde also won the Tour of Spain once, in 2009.
One of the few moles in his long career was seeing his name peppered in the Puerto anti-doping operation, which cost him a suspension in the early 2010s.
Behind the top four, Italian Gianni Moscon finished fifth, ahead of a group of favorite Julian Alaphilippe (8th).
The Italian and Spanish teams were the most active before the last circuit (31 kilometers).
The last survivors of the day’s break, which came to have an 18-minute lead, the Norwegian Vegard Laengen and the Danish Kasper Asgreen, were caught before the last 20 kilometers.
Reigning Slovak world champion Peter Sagan was 92 kilometers behind.
Winner of the three previous editions of the World Cup, Sagan lagged behind on the first mountainous difficulty of the course, much more selective than in previous years.
Valverde signed the first world gold for Spain since Oscar Freire’s victory in 2004. He is one of the oldest world champions in history, behind Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk (also 38 years old), who won in 1985. AFP