October 3 - Thor Hushovd today became Norway's first road world champion, powering clear of a mass sprint to edge out Denmark's Matti Breschel in a dramatic finish as Britain's Mark Cavendish failed to finish in Geelong.

Hushovd, a muscular sprint specialist, timed his run to perfection, hanging back in the peloton as a number of attackers flagged on the steep climbs of the 262.7 kiolmetres, before bursting to the front to win by a little more than a bike length.

"It's a big dream of course to win big races and especially the World Championship, it's something special," said the 32-year-old.

"In the end, coming into a sprint you don't really have time to think if it's possible or not and when I saw I passed Breschel in the last few metres it was just unbelievable and an amazing feeling."

Allan Davis took bronze as a consolation prize for Australia, after champion Cadel Evans' title defence was swamped in the tide of the peloton before the final straight.

Riders enjoyed mild sunny weather, but windy conditions proved decisive late in the challenging course, which started with a mostly flat 88km run from Melbourne's Federation Square before heading into an undulating 15.9km circuit around Geelong.

A course that was supposed to discourage sprinters and reward the bigger teams suddenly sprung a surprise on the last lap as strong headwinds on the hills accounted for a string of favourites' chances.

Philippe Gilbert of Belgium briefly opened a 40-second gap from a breakaway that included local hope Evans (pictured), but was swamped a few kilometres before the finishing line.

Cavendish, heavily favoured to win by several experts, struggled on the two short, sharp hills on the circuit and retired with 57km to go of the 262km course.

British team-mates David Millar and Jeremy Hunt had attempted to pace the 25-year-old Manx rider back up to the leaders throughout, but on each climb he lost time.

Millar, who was second in the time-trial, and Hunt also failed to finish.

In all, the brutal course accounted for 79 of the 178 starters.

"Mark is just a pure sprinter," said Hushovd.

"He is the fastest sprinter in the world when it is flat and not hard; my victories come when there is a climb in the end.

"I am more of a classics rider, who can pass the climbs and then win, like today."

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