Belgium's Philippe Gilbert won the men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships after breaking away on the final climb of the Cauberg hill in Limberg.
The 30-year-old left rivals Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway and Spain's Alejandro Valverde in his wake towards the end of the 267-kilometre race through Holland.
Ireland's Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche finished in 33rd and 34th place respectively.
The Belgian team had faced an early challenge from both recent Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador and France's Thomas Voeckler, but Gilbert managed to break away on the final climb.
British rider Mark Cavendish was unable to defend his title after retiring with 111km of the race remaining.
The 27-year-old sprinter had already admitted the hilly terrain was ill-suited to his personal style, in contrast to the flat roads of Copenhagen where he raced to glory last year.
Cavendish's Team Sky colleagues and Olympic medallists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome also dropped out of the arduous race before reaching the final stages.
Earlier, Matej Mohoric of Slovenia claimed the men's world junior title after stunning Australia's Caleb Ewan with a sprint on the final kilometre.
He told limburg2012.nl: "When the whole bunch arrived at the Cauberg I managed to stay in the front and still had something left.
"This is incredible, fantastic. I can't believe it."