Spanish veteran conquers gruelling Innsbruck course to win at UCI World Championships 15 years after first road race medal.

Alejandro Valverde has won his first road race title at the 2018 UCI World Championships in Innsbruck.

At the end of a gruelling mountainous 258.5-kilometre test, the 38-year-old Spaniard held on for victory from Romain Bardet with Michael Woods taking bronze ahead of time trial runner-up Tom Dumoulin.

Valverde said, "It's incredible, after all these years struggling for the world title, to finally get it.

"Words can't describe how grateful I am for the effort of the whole Spain team. It's a very special day.

"I knew I was possibly the strongest and was waiting for someone to make a move.

"This has been a dream of mine to be a world champion." - 2018 road race world champion Alejandro Valverde

Peter Sagan abandoned his bid for a fourth consecutive road race world title after losing touch with the main group just over 90 kilometres from home.

Recent Vuelta a Espana winner Simon Yates was also dropped by the main pack with 50 kilometres to go.

Valverde holds on

The viciously steep Hoell climb inside the last 10 kilometres ended several riders' hopes with Valverde, Bardet and Woods left in front.

Dumoulin bridged the gap on the descent and, on the approach to the line, Valverde led out with his rivals seemingly waiting to pounce.

But Valverde would not be passed and he took his first road race gold after winning his first of six previous medals back in 2003.

His career was interrupted by a two-year suspension for blood doping from 2010 to 2012.

On hand to award him his Innsbruck gold medal was the man who had won it for the last three years. Sagan.

Crowning glory

For Valverde, this was a sweet triumph after heartbreak at La Vuelta two weeks ago.

Having won the red jersey back in 2009, he was challenging again in the general classification but cracked on the penultimate stage to slip from second to fifth place.

Valverde had to settle for the consolation prize of the green points jersey in Madrid.

After three comparatively flat road races at the World Championships, Innsbruck was always going to favour the climbers.

And the course suited Valverde perfectly.

At 38 years and 158 days, Valverde is not quite the oldest man to win the world road race title.

That honour goes to Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk who was 38 years and 272 days old when he took victory in 1985.

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