|Nicole Cooke celebrating one of her|
"This is a special success that gives me morale and faith about the possibilities after a difficult spring and a long period of work."
The 28-year-old Welsh professional has had a bit of a shaky year following her return to the sport after suffering an illness which led many experts and much of the press to write her off. In fact, if Cooke did retire now, she could do so with the absolute certainty that her career had been spectacular; she has, after all, won two Tours de France Féminin, a gold in the Olympics, the UCI World Road Race Championships and no less than ten British National Championships. Yet the Swansea-born star isn't ready to hang up her cleats just yet and has looked very keen to add a bit more glory to her impressive total before calling it a day.
Cooke showed an admirable ability to work both as part of a team and alone, forming part of a late breakaway that fulfilled its task perfectly by putting pressure on the pack and tiring them out. Ace climber Valentina Scandolara, looking to the climb at the end, attacked and broke up the group, but the breakaway had worked so well that even she was unable to maintain the pace when the road turned skywards. Cooke immediately seized her opportunity among all the action and went for it with Vos and Ina Teutenberg in close pursuit, crossing the line four seconds before the Dutch champ. Beating Vos by four seconds is roughly equal to beating anyone else by 16, a fantastic result and incontrovertible proof that Cooke can still turn up the heat.
Though her utter joy at winning was obvious, Cooke didn't do it entirely for herself though - she also wanted to show her gratitude to the team that has kept her on the books and stuck by during her recovery period. "I wanted so much to win this stage, which is in our MCipollini Giambenini Giordana team's home base," she told reporters, "I dedicate this success to my family but, in particular, to my team, because they trust and allow me to work without pressure."