Tony Martin powered to a second consecutive Time Trial World Championship by the narrowest of margins in Holland.
The German had to dig in during a nip-and-tuck battle with young American Taylor Phinney, Martin eventually winning out by just 5.3 seconds after 45.7 brutal kilometres.
58 minutes and 38 seconds proved to be the winning time to place the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider on the top step of the podium in Limburg, a result which left Phinney understandably dejected.
The top two proved to be in a class of their own during the event, with Phinney (BMC Racing) going quickest through the first intermediate before Martin battled back – the pace so hot that Martin caught and passed recent Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador for two minutes out on course.
With a gap of almost two minutes back to the next rider it was Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus/Movistar) who took bronze, a shade over four seconds quicker than American Tejay Van Garderen.
Great Britain’s sole representative Alex Dowsett of Team Sky clocked a career-best ride in his first taste of elite championship action, eighth the reward for the 23-year-old’s efforts.
58 riders took to the start of the rolling Dutch course with the rainbow jersey on the line. With two of last season’s podium finishers (Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara) not entered the event had a much more open feel with world championship medals up for grabs.
Rain affected a number of the mid-pack runners with the heavens opening as Dowsett began his run. At one point localised heavy showers buffeted the first climb of the day while the finish line in Valkenburg basked in bright sunlight.
A strong early time from Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan, sixth) held up well before Kiryienka arrived at the line to put himself in with a shout of a medal.
One contender who wouldn’t make the finish was Marco Pinotti, the BMC rider going down hard having just gone third fastest though the third split, the Italian’s front wheel slipping out on a painted white line - a suspected broken collarbone bringing an end to his run.
Winner in the recent time trial at the Vuelta, Sweden’s Fredrik Kessiakoff would round out the top five on the day, but there was no catching the lead two men, the only riders to dip under the hour mark.