GEELONG, Australia (AP) - Thor Hushovd of Norway won the men's road race at the World Road Cycling Championship on Sunday, edging Denmark's Matti Breschel and Australia's Allan Davis in a sprint finish.
Hushovd completed the 257.2 kilometre (160-mile) race in 6 hours, 21 minutes, 49 seconds, powering away in the last uphill sprint to beat Breschel and Davis who were credited with the same time. Filippo Pozzato of Italy was fourth and Greg van Avermaet of Belgium fifth.
Frank Schleck of Luxembourg was 16th and defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia was 17th among a field of 178 riders. The first 18 finishers were credited with the same time as Hushovd.
Hushovd claimed his first world championship road title on a hilly course between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria state. Nicknamed "the God of Thunder," Hushovd is one of the world's top sprinters, having won the green jersey for overall points classification on the Tour de France.
"It's a big dream of course to win big races and especially the world championship," he said. "It's something special ... an unbelievable and amazing feeling."
A group of five low-profile riders made the first breakaway in Sunday's race, building a lead of 23 minutes as the peloton was content to sit back and let them lead out.
The lead was still more than 20 minutes when the leaders started the first of 11 laps of a 15.9km course in Geelong city.
The peloton reduced the gap and reeled in the leaders well before the finish. Evans, the hometown favorite, and Hushovd were both among a crucial chase group that formed with about 100 kilometres (62 miles) to go.
On the third-last lap, the lead group broke up but Evans managed to stay near the front. The race re-formed and at the start of the last lap there were 40 riders at the front, featuring all the eventual medalists.
Pre-race favorite Philippe Gilbert of Belgium attacked on the first of two big climbs and built a lead of 21 seconds, chased by Evans and a small group of riders. The peloton then roared past that group and Hushovd dashed to the front on the last uphill leg.
"I just went with everything, and Thor passed me with 30 metres to go," Breschel said. "For the moment I'm disappointed. Today I went for the big victory, but second place is a big result."
The world championship was threatened to be overshadowed by news of positive doping tests in Europe, most notably Thursday's revelation that three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol during this year's Tour.
"It's sad for cycling, but it's good that anti-doping still works," said Hushovd.
Organizers estimate more than 200,000 fans came out to watch the race - from its start in downtown Melbourne, along the course on its 82.3-kilometre (51-mile) ride to Geelong where the riders completed 11 laps of the 15.9-kilometre (10-mile) circuit near Corio Bay.
Davis said the Australian team enjoyed the unusual situation of riding for a vocal home crowd.
"We race the majority of the year overseas and the majority of the fans are cheering for someone else," he said. "To have the majority of the crowd here calling out all our names was something special."
The next world road championships will be held next year in Copenhagen, Denmark.