Cooke wins first senior World title

Cooke wins first senior World title

by Tony Farrelly   September 28, 2008  

Nicole Cooke (portrait)

Nicole Cooke yesterday gave the perfect riposte to those who doubted her appetite for the fight by winning the World Road Race title in Varese, Italy for the first time. In a masterful display, Cooke and her British team mates coped with whatever the race threw at them, having someone in the decisive breaks and chasing down every move to leave Nicole with the task of nailing the sprint for the line. This she duly did out-gunning her Dutch rival Marianne Vos to win by a bike length. In what turned out to be a thrilling compeitive race the British team of Cooke, Emma Pooley, Elizabeth Armistead, Sharon Laws, and Jessica Allen never lost their nerve and rode an intelligent race. Afterwards Cooke was quick to praise the efforts of her team mates in putting her in a position to win. "When I started the race I was very relaxed because I'd already achieved my goal for the year which was to win the Olympics. "But I was set up perfectly by my team-mates. What more can you ask for?" Surprisingly though before the race many pundits mistook here relaxed demeanour for a lack of hunger and were predicting that Cooke might not be up for the fight because of her Olympic Gold in Beijing. This proved to be a fundamental mis-reading of what drives Nicole Cooke, she is the supreme competitor – Cooke only races to win. Ironically in the past when up against more tactically astute opponents this had sometimes been her undoing. In the last couple of seasons though Cooke has begun to marry her massive talent, and will to win, with a greater tactical maturity. It also seems to have dawned on her that bicycle racing is a team sport – success is not just about being the best rider, having a good team around you being prepared to put it on the line. Team GB are certainly prepared to do that. One other factor that may well have spurred Cooke on, at some level at least, is the realisation that the 23-year old Vos looks like she has a talent to match her own. Yesterday's race suggests that these two will be battling it out for the big prizes for the next few years. Although she dominated the Worlds as a junior, Cooke has never taken the senior title, her best results being two bronzes and a silver. A group of 12 riders inluding the American Kristin Armstrong and Team GB's Eliszabeth Armistead, lead the field for most of the 86-mile (138.4 kilometre) race, at one time getting as far as 2 minutes up on the main field. Emma Pooley (GB), attacking off the front of the main field eventually brought the chasing pack up to the escape – just as the race entered it's final lap. This set things up for five riders to contest the medal placings - Cooke, Vos, Arndt, German Trixi Worrack and Sweden's Emma Johansson. The two Germans, Arndt and Worrack, then launched a series of attacks to try and break their rivals – Johansson then appeared to get the drop on the others by going for a long-range finish with 2km to go. Vos though chased her down but at the same time also pulled Cooke up and Nicole then put the power down to hit the front where it counted most crossing the line a bike length in front of her Dutch rival. "I tried to get back on her wheel," added 25-year-old Cooke. "After a long race 100 metres can seem more like 200. Dutch rider Vos said: "I felt good in the last lap. I couldn't do any better, I couldn't go faster. "Last year I started my sprint too late and this year I thought I had gotten it just right. "When I looked back and saw Nicole coming on strong I knew I couldn't win. I'm still second, it's still a spot on the podium." GB cycling supermo David Brailsford said: "Nicole has shown that she is the best around at the moment. "It is brilliant for Nicole and the rest of the team. We really are a team to be reckoned with now." The Road World Championships finish today with the Men's Road Race. You can watch it live online on the BBC website.
Or watch the BBC's live coverage on digital TV between 0930 and 1630 by pressing the red button, or catch the highlights between 1800 and 1900 on BBC2. Women's road race result 1.Nicole Cooke (GB) 3hrs 42mins 11secs?2. 2.Marianne Vos (Ned) at same time? 3.Judith Arndt (Ger) at same time? 4.Emma Johansson (Swe) +5 secs? 5.Trixi Worrack (Ger) +11secs 6.?Diana Ziliute (Lit) +1:47"? 7.Marta Vilajosana (Spa) at same time? 8.Joanne Kiesanowski (NZ) at same time? 9.Alex Wrubleski (Can) at same time? 10.Yulia Martissova (Rus) at same time Selected others: 28.Sharon Laws (GB) 3hrs 43mins 58secs ? 35. Emma Pooley (GB) +1:56 ? 41. Elizabeth Armitstead (GB) +5.24 ?61. Jessica Allen (GB) +6.11