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British Championships - CN
Beverley, Great Britain, June 24-25, 2006
Day 1 - June 24: Elite women road race, 101.6 km
Cooke in seventh heaven
By Gerry McManus in Berverley
Nicole Cooke (Raleigh Univega) convincingly won her seventh national title in Beverley, East Yorkshire on Saturday.
The Welsh cycling star finally broke the will of the rest of the field when she attacked on the final lap of the race circuit and opened a gap of 25 seconds on her breakaway companions on the route back to the town. Lorna Webb (KSV Deerlijk) got the best of 17 year-old Joanna Rowsell (VC Londres) in the battle for the remaining podium places. Rowsell's third place meant that she was the first under-23 rider across the line to win her first champion's jersey.
The race started at a brisk pace on the first lap with Cooke showing her climbing strength and riding from the front. The rain threatened throughout the first hour but held off as the group stayed together on the quiet Yorkshire roads.
It wasn't until the penultimate lap that the break finally happened. Eleven riders went clear including Cooke's main challenger Rachel Heal (Victory Brewing). Lizzie Armistead (Raleigh ERV) was the obvious absentee in the select group and she took to the front of the chasing group but the margin grew wider as the leaders shared the pace.
Cooke finally showed her cards when she attacked on the steepest of the climbs on the race circuit and no one could hold her wheel.
"I attacked all the way through the race but the decisive one was on the last lap on the climb on the farthest part of the course," said Cooke. "Rachel (Heal) myself were very active throughout the race and the VC Londres rider (Rowsell) was very strong today on the hilly section. It was just through attrition I think that the break went away."
Cooke is currently the World Cup leader and rides with the world's best riders but is quick to point out that British women's cycling is getting stronger. "I thought the race would split up early on and we had more starters than ever before," said Cooke. "I think you can see that there is a lot more strength in depth now.
"I thought through quite a few different strategies and I was quite happy with the way the race was developing. Even though there weren't any breakaways, there were some quite hard sections anyway so the race was taking its toll. When I got away it was a case of getting into a good rhythm and once I got the gap to keep on going to the finish."
Rowsell was delighted with her results taking two medals from the same event including gold in the under 23 category. "I am really pleased," said Rowsell. "I was just hoping for a medal so I'm really pleased that I won it."
The youngster from Surrey is only in her second full year of cycling and is currently on the British Cycling Olympic Development Program. The former swimmer is only in sixth-form college in Cheam and is hoping to get on the British team for the junior world championships this year.
"The first lap was definitely the hardest," said Rowsell. "There was a lot of attacking and it was very fast. When Nicole attacked with two laps to go I felt good and went with her and was quite happily doing turns in the group. When she finally went on the last lap she put the hammer down and rode away. There wasn't much anyone could do about it."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gerry McManus/www.gerrymcmanus.co.uk
Images by Andrew Kennedy/www.kennedyimages.co.uk
1 Nicole Cooke (Univega/ Raleigh) 2.51.29 2 Lorna Webb (KSV Deerlijk) 0.25 3 Joanna Rowsell (VC Londres) 4 Amy Hunt (Safi Pasta) 5 Tanja Slater (Science In Sport) 6 Cath Hare (Team Fat Birds) 7 Caroline Kluiber (Rapha Condor) 8 Helen Wyman (Team Fat Birds) 9 Wendy Houvenaghel (Ricci Bikechain) 0.27 10 Rachel Heal (Victory Brewing) 11 Leda Cox (Unattached) 12 Louise Mahe (Sutton CC) 5.46 13 Melanie Williams (Rahpa Condor) 14 Katie Curtis (Cardiff Ajax) 15 Angela Hunter (GS Stada) 16 Sara Burling (CC Giro) 17 Carrie Bedingfield (Luian-Kuota) 18 Lisa Hollingshead (Raleigh EVR) 19 Gabriella Coates (Evans Cycles) 20 Lizzy Goodband (Team FBUK) 21 Gabby Day (Team FBUK) 22 Lindsay Clarke (Fenland Clarion) 23 Sophie Johnson (Raleigh EVR) 24 Charlotte Colcough (Team QCP) 25 Lizzy Armitstead (Raleigh EVR) 26 Alice Monger-Godfrey (VC Londres) 27 Lara Wann (VC Londres) 28 Jeanette Tebutt (Lucian-Kuota) 29 Fem Van Schelven (Team FBUK) 30 Antonia Burt (Twickenham CC) 31 Emma Silversides (Team Fat Birds UK) 32 Tracey Fletchor (Team Fat Birds UK) 33 Angela Pike (Wolverhampton Wheelers) 34 Cayley Ennett (Team QCP) 35 Bernadette Hards (Akisko Viner) 36 Hannah Bussey (VC Meudon) 37 Patricia Salbany (PM) 38 Emma Pooley (Team Fat Birds UK) 39 Jo Tindley (VC Londres)