Sunday 26 June 2011

Nicole Cooke fails to regain title

Nicole Cooke, who hoped to regain the British Women's Road Race title following a year of disappointing results after illness at today's race in Stamfordham, Northumberland, was beaten by Lizzie Armitstead who came second in 2009 and 2010.

Cooke riding in the 2010 Flèche Walonne, a race she has won on three occasions
Armistead crossed the line just two seconds ahead of the Welsh ex-champion after a high-speed sprint to the finish, having been part of a four-rider breakaway that led the field for almost the entirety of the 65 mile course. Emma Pooley rode well, as ever, and her Garmin team kept things moving along at a high rate. Cooke, who has previously accused her rivals of ganging up on her in order to prevent her winning, seemed content - "I realised there wasn’t much chance of me being able to break away by myself with three strong girls who’d chase me down," she said, "So I just had to go as good as I could in the sprint and cover the attacks that they threw in."

However, finishing ahead of Pooley will doubtless keep her spirits up and second place remains a sufficiently good to guarantee her place for the time being on the Mario Cippolini-Giordana team. With two Tour de France Féminin wins and a host of other trophies including nine previous wins in this race, Cooke is the only female cyclist to have won an Olympic gold and held a National Champion title in the same year. At 28 years old there's no reason to suspect she's past her best yet and she may well be back on form by the start of next year.

Armitstead's victory was deserved - she rode well and has proved herself to be one of Britain's finest. With her, Pooley, Martin and Laws riding together, Garmin have what is probably the strongest Women's British team ever and one that will bring much attention to British cycling and it'd surprise nobody were she now to become leader of the British women's team ready for the World Road Race Final set to take place in Copenhagen this September - an event which should suit the 22-year-old West Yorkshire rider as the region is relatively flat and will feature the sort of sprints at which she has proved she excels.

Lucy Martin's 2nd place in the Under-23 Championship, along with Laura Trott's 1st and Dani King's 3rd, shows just how highly young British female riders are performing currently - if one thing's for certain, it's that women's racing is vibrant, top quality and worthy of far higher exposure than it currently receives. Hopefully, with riders of this calibre emerging and adding their successes to those already achieved by the likes of Cooke, Pooley, Pendleton and others, that'll change in the coming years and events will receive the same attention that men's races do.

Lizzie Armitstead took a deserved first place.
1st - Lizzie Armitstead (Garmin-Cervelo) (2h 28' 40")
2nd - Nicole Cooke (Mario Cippolini-Giodana) (+2")
3rd - Sharon Laws (Garmin-Cervelo) (+4")
4th - Emma Pooley (Garmin Cervelo) (+8")
5th - Laura Trott (Moving Ladies) (1st place Under-23 Champs)
6th - Lucy Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) (2nd place Under-23)
7th - Dani King (Horizon) (3rd place Under-23)
8th - Catherine Williamson (Konica Minolta)
9th - Katie Colclaugh (HTC-Highroad)
10th - Emma Grant (For-Viored-Brookwex)
(5th - 10th place awarded same time)

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