VALKENBURG, Netherlands -- Philippe Gilbert of Belgium won the men's road race Sunday at the Road Cycling World Championships, sprinting away on the closing Cauberg climb for victory.

Gilbert, who has twice won the Amstel Gold Race in the same hilly Dutch province, showed his experience by waiting patiently before powering away from a large group, punching the air as he crossed the line.

Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway was second and Alejandro Valverde of Spain third.

The peloton kept up a strength-sapping pace throughout the 267-kilometre race, preventing any serious breakaways and setting up the thrilling finish.

Defending champion Mark Cavendish of Britain dropped out midway through the grueling race, as did his teammate Bradley Wiggins, who had already won the Tour de France and Olympic time trial this year.