Welsh cycling star Nicole Cooke overcame years of frustration by adding a maiden world road race title to her Beijing road race gold here at the world championships on Saturday.
Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, the 2006 champion, finished second to take the silver medal with Germany's 2004 champion Judith Arndt winning the bronze.
In a thrilling finish to the 138.8 km race, held over eight laps of an undulating circuit, Cooke showed why she is one of the greatest women cyclists of modern times. After Vos put in her final attack of many just 150 metres from the finish, a determined Cooke stuck on the young Dutchwoman's wheel and overtook her just before the line.
"I think it will take a long time for this achievement to sink in," said Cooke, who is the first woman to win a world and Olympic road race title in the same year. "After achieving my main objective of the season in Beijing we started the race very relaxed and today I just tried to do my best.
"At the end of the race I decided I would give everything I had all the way to the finish line, and that's exactly what I did."
Stuck in a five-strong leading group with two Germans and two former world champions, Cooke followed all the right moves in a chaotic final lap that saw attacks from Vos, Emma Johansson and Trixi Worrack of Germany all fail.
Beijing silver medallist Johansson then attacked just before the red flag signaling the final kilometre but the Swede floundered inside the final few hundred metres. As the finish line approached Arndt pulled ahead briefly, but when Vos went off on her own it was the talented Dutchwoman's wheel that Cooke decided to jump on.
Vos, a 21-year-old multi-discipline champion in the sport who won the points race gold at the Beijing velodrome, appeared to stop her effort only metres from the finish line. But whether that was a misjudgment or a sudden loss of energy, Cooke kept hammering the pedals and crossed the finish line in triumph.
Vos, aggressive throughout, denied suggestions she had made a costly mistake at the end.
"I sprinted as hard as hard as I could, and couldn't do any better," said Vos, who had been aiming for gold after failing to live up to expectations in the Olympic road events. "I attacked a lot throughout the race when in the finale I saw Nicole following my wheel I knew I was beaten."
Arndt picked up her second bronze of the championships following her third place in the time trial, and claimed she was happy despite her and Worrack failing to benefit from their numerical advantage.
"I know it looks bad not winning when we had two Germans in the five-strong breakaway but we knew the others were faster sprinters than us - that's why we had to constantly attack," said Arndt, the new overall World Cup champion. "It was very aggressive but for me and the German team it was a great race."
It caps a hugely successful year for Cooke, who won world championships bronze in 2006, silver in 2005 and bronze in 2003.
Cooke succeeds Italian Marta Bastianelli, who was handed a doping ban after testing positive for the banned stimulant flenfluramina shortly before the Olympics.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.