Germany's Bert Grabsch upstaged a handful of more fancied contenders to claim a maiden time trial gold at the world road race championships here on Thursday.
Grabsch, the national champion in the race against the clock, took full advantage of the absence of two-time defending champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland to finish in a winning time of 52min 01sec.
Over a relatively rolling 43.7 km course favouring the 'rouleurs', Canada's Svein Tuft finished second to take silver with David Zabriskie of the United States claiming bronze.
Grabsch was obviously delighted with his win, but refused to agree that the absence of Olympic champion Cancellara had given him his chance.
"Cancellara's not here, but I said well before the race that at least 10 guys could win this title," said the 33-year-old, who is the first German since Jan Ullrich in 2001 to win time trial gold.
On last year's slightly less rolling course at Stuttgart, Grabsch took fourth place. This year, the course suited him a lot better.
"I'm a 'rouleur', so it was a perfect course for me. It was rolling, fast and it didn't have any real climbs. I couldn't have asked for any better."
While Tuft, a multi-sport fanatic who lives in a trailer, claimed Canada's first world medal in the event since the famous Steve Bauer in 1984, Zabriskie upstaged gold medal favourite and compatriot Levi Leipheimer. Leipheimer came into the race fresh from winning both time trials at the Tour of Spain but finished 1min 05sec behind Grabsch and nearly 14secs off the bronze medal pace.
Zabriskie is still dealing with lower back pain which resulted from a crash in this year's Giro d'Italia and practically wiped out his season. In the circumstances, the zany American was delighted with his bronze.
"It's been a difficult year for me so I have to be happy with this," said Zabriskie. "Since the Olympics I've had a couple more races in my legs so I was hoping to do well. Third is pretty good. I'm satisfied."
Of the three medallists, however, it was Tuft who wore the biggest smile. The North America-based racer might be a small fish in the big pond of European stage racing, but he showed his world class - and might have hoped to do better had he not punctured 6km from the finish.
With only one time trial bike to his name, he took the quick option of jumping on his spare - a road racing bike - and promptly took the silver. It was a result which he said was down to being allowed to focus on this year's Olympic Games, where he finished seventh.
"The Olympic Games was a huge confidence builder for me although I wasn't sure whether I was going to keep going to the worlds," said Tuft, a four-time Canadian time trial champion who rides for the Symmetrics team. "Then I had a good performance at the Tour of Missouri, and that motivated me for the championships. I was a little surprised by my time, but I'm very happy. To be up here with these guys is a very big thing for me."
Australian Michael Rogers, a three-time world champion between 2003-2005, finished a disappointing 12th at 1:33 behind and was left ruing the small virus which hampered his training plans in recent weeks.
Cancellara, the champion in 2007 and 2006, decided not to compete after citing fatigue following his Olympic time trial gold.
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© AFP 2008