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9th Women's Flèche Wallonne - CDM
Belgium, April 19, 2006
Welsh wunderkind takes victory #3
Nicole Cooke makes Flèche Wallonne her own
By Anthony Tan in Huy
It's one thing to meet expectations, but another to exceed them. Before today's ninth edition of the women's Flèche Wallonne, Nicole Cooke had already claimed two victories in this race, and all eyes were on this Welsh wonder to do it all again, despite her team appearing to have considerably less firepower than the might of Nürnberger and T-Mobile.
But today atop the Mur de Huy, this recently-turned 23 year-old did what she set out to accomplish, and it had plenty to do with the unity displayed her Univega team of women, who bonded together to give her every possible chance of victory, with Cooke arising from the climb's savage slopes a comfortable winner over Judith Arndt (T-Mobile) and Trixi Worrack (Nürnberger).
"Well, I was confident I would be up at the front, challenging for the podium, but you can never be sure because there's so many strong riders and you can never tell," said Cooke to Cyclingnews, minutes after crossing the line and still puffing and panting from her explosive effort she's both renowned and feared for.
Asked what her team plan was at the start of the day, she exclaimed with a smile: "To try and get me to win somehow!
"I knew what my capability was, and Wood took off very hard through the hairpins. What was going through my mind was, 'Well, if she holds that pace all the way to the finish, she deserves to win because I can't go that fast at this moment.' But I knew that we still had 350, 400 metres to go, and obviously on the hill, it takes a lot longer than on the flat. I just paced myself and found the extra [energy] I thought I had, so I was happy about that, thank goodness!"
If there were any other moments of concern for the race favourite during the race, such as Russian Olga Zabelinskaia's solo attack 40 kilometres from the finish or Buitenpoort-Flexpoint flexing their muscles just before the penultimate climb of the Côte de Ahin, her team didn't show it. "No, I think it was actually quite helpful that the whole of the Buitenpoort team got on the front," said Cooke, "because they were keeping the pace high and were actually going fast, so it was actually quite helpful. I was a bit concerned when Zabelinskaia broke away, but we rode strong and it was a fantastic Univega team - absolutely incredible.
"I think it's something that has developed and grown between the riders since we first met each other at the start of the season. I think we've all trained together, we've all helped each other in training, we've spent a lot of time together off the bike - not just in racing - so we know the person, not just the rider. I think we know how much hard work each rider puts into it, so we always want to give back as much as we can. I think there's a very good team spirit, and it's more from the whole group of riders, not just one person."
Originally down to ride for the T-Mobile team at the start of the season but for one reason or another cutting the contract short, Cooke has been accused of being selfish and uninterested in working for others. However, when the question was posed on whether she stands a chance in taking overall victory in the 2006 World Cup, it prompted a very egalitarian answer.
"I think we'll see what goes on. Christiane Soeder finished second in Flanders; when we raced in New Zealand, Joanne Kiesanowski was fourth, so we're quite happy to race with different strategies," she said. "On Sunday, we race in Switzerland and maybe a Swiss rider will be the leader, so I think we have a team for all races."
How it unfolded
At three past midday, 146 women from 25 teams left Huy under sunny skies and fresh winds. Given what lay ahead, it wasn't a particularly fast start, and it took almost 40 kilometres before Marina Jaunatre (Vienne Futuroscope) tried her luck on Côte de Pailhe, the first of the day's five climbs. Though it was short-lived: seven kilometres later, the Frenchwoman was swept up by the peloton.
Russians Svetlana Bubnenkova, Olga Zabelinskaia (both Fenixs-Colnago) and Zoulfia Zabirova (Bigla Cycling Team) were looking rather twitchy on the Côte de Hautebisse (km 58.5), but it wasn't until the descent of the Hautebisse after 65 kilometres that saw Zabelinskaia get away on her own, igniting a brief acceleration back in the bunch.
By the summit of the Côte de Bohissau (km 77), Zabelinskaia's lead was 40 seconds, with the peloton led by Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Bianchi Aliverti Kookai) and Claudia Haussler (Nürnberger Versicherung). However, two kilometres later and with the chasing bunch - now down to 47 riders - moving briskly, the Russian's lead was just 25 seconds.
Approaching the penultimate ascent of the Côte de Ahin, all six riders from the Buitenpoort-Flexpoint were swapping off at the front, yet the gap to Zabelinskaia had grown to just over half a minute. Soon afterwards, however, her fate was sealed on the climb as the speeding peloton swept her up, promoting a counter-attack from Nicole Cooke (Univega), Nicole Brändli and team-mate Zabirova (Bigla), as well as Oenone Wood (Nürnberger), although unsuccessful.
On the approach to the Mur de Huy, 28 riders were left to fight out the finale, and in a copycat script to that of last year, the duel between Wood and Cooke resumed on the Mur's lower slopes. Wood, the defending World Cup champ from Down Under, dropped the lot on the opening hairpins but the multiple world champ from Wales smartly bided her time, passing her adversary roughly 300 metres before the finish line to defend her title and claim her third victory in La Flèche Wallonne, beating Judith Arndt (T-Mobile) and the Nürnberger pair of Trixi Worrack and Wood.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mitch Friedman/www.mitchophoto.com
Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Anthony Tan/Cyclingnews.com
1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team 2.55.03 (36.322 km/h) 2 Judith Arndt (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 0.02 3 Trixi Worrack (Ger) Nurnberger Versicherung 0.03 4 Oenone Wood (Aus) Nurnberger Versicherung 0.07 5 Amber Neben (USA) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 0.09 6 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 7 Sofie Goor (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 8 Nicole Brandli (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 0.12 9 Noemi Cantele (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team 0.18 10 An Van Rie (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 0.20 11 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 0.21 12 Christiane Soeder (Aut) Univega Pro Cycling Team 0.23 13 Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Ltu) A.S. Team F.R.W 0.24 14 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 0.26 15 Annette Beutler (Swi) Elk Haus No 16 Edwige Pitel (Fra) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 0.28 17 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 18 Theresa Senff (Ger) AA-Drink Cycling Team 0.32 19 Olivia Gollan (Aus) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 20 Cindy Pieters (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 0.36 21 Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 0.37 22 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Germany 0.39 23 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) Bigla Cycling Team 0.49 24 Miho Oki (Jpn) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 0.54 25 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 0.58 26 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 1.05 27 Claudia Haussler (Ger) Nurnberger Versicherung 1.21 28 Eva Lutz (Ger) Nurnberger Versicherung 29 Marianne Vos (Ned) Netherlands 1.34 30 Angela Brodtka (Ger) AA-Drink Cycling Team 1.36 31 Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Fenixs - Colnago 1.39 32 Trine Hansen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 1.45 33 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Ned) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 1.46 34 Tina Pic (USA) Usa 1.47 35 Sharon Van Dromme (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 36 Miek Vyncke (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 1.55 37 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 2.06 38 Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 2.13 39 Olga Zabelinskaia (Rus) Fenixs - Colnago 2.15 40 Regina Schleicher (Ger) Nurnberger Versicherung 2.25 41 Ina Teutenberg (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 42 Kimberly Baldwin (USA) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 43 Natalie Bates (Aus) AA-Drink Cycling Team 2.31 44 Kathryn Watt (Aus) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 45 Marina Jaunatre (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 2.49 46 Inge Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 2.53 47 Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Lithuania 2.57 48 Bärbel Jungmeier (Aut) Elk Haus No 3.03 49 Silvia Parietti (Ita) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 3.04 50 Laure Werner (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 3.07 51 Linda Villumsen (Den) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 3.12 52 Elisabeth Chevanne-Brunel (Fra) France 53 Marta Vilajosana (Spa) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 54 Sarah Duster (Ger) Univega Pro Cycling Team 3.15 55 Alexandra Le Henaff (Fra) France 3.17 56 Evy Van Damme (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 3.18 57 Sarah Grab (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 3.23 58 Eva Lechner (Ita) Fenixs - Colnago 3.29 59 Patricia Schwager (Swi) Elk Haus No 3.33 60 Madeleine Sandig (Ger) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 3.34 61 Veronika Andreasson (Swe) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 3.37 62 Josephine Groenveld (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 3.45 63 Claudia Stumpf (Ger) Germany 3.56 64 Volha Hayeva (Blr) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 4.00 65 Belen Lopez Morales (Spa) Spain 6.43 66 Lise Christensen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 6.44 67 Amy Moore (Can) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 68 Emma Johansson (Swe) Bizkaia-Panda-Durango 6.46 69 Evelyn Garcia (ESa) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 70 Miyoko Karami (Jpn) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 6.47 71 Nina Ovcharenko (Ukr) A.S. Team F.R.W 6.52 72 Nathalie Jeuland (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 73 Catherine Delfosse (Bel) Belgique 74 Rosario Rodriguez Gomez (Spa) Spain 6.57 75 Ludivine Henrion (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 7.00 76 Rebecca Larson (USA) Usa 77 Grace Verbeke (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 78 Cristina Alcalde (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda-Durango 7.02 79 Bianca Knopfle (Ger) Germany 7.06 80 Iosune Murillo (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda-Durango 81 Andréa Graus (Aut) Bigla Cycling Team 82 Amy Hunt (GBr) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 83 Sarah Tillotson (USA) Usa 7.11 84 Sissy Van Alebeek (Ned) Netherlands 7.16 85 Béatrice Thomas (Fra) France 7.21 86 Naiara Telletxea Lopez (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda-Durango 7.29 87 Katia Longhin (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 7.34 88 Eneritz Iturriaga (Spa) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 89 Anke Wichmann (Ger) Nurnberger Versicherung 8.37 90 Johanna Buick (NZl) Fenixs - Colnago 9.38 91 Karen Steurs (Bel) Belgique 9.43 92 Meredith Miller (USA) Usa 9.45 93 Marllijn Binnendijk (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 9.51 94 Andréa Knecht (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 95 Véronique Belleter (Bel) Belgique 10.02 96 Eugénie Mermillod (Fra) France 10.09 97 Monika Furrer (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 10.11 98 Rosara Joseph (NZl) New Zealand 10.13 99 Indre Januleviciute (Ltu) A.S. Team F.R.W 10.17 100 Irene Van De Broeck (Ned) Netherlands 10.20 101 Ombretta Ugolini (Ita) A.S. Team F.R.W 102 Katharina Blum (Ger) Elk Haus No 10.23 103 Mette Fischer Andreason (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 10.32 104 Irmante Lygnugaryte (Ltu) Lithuania 11.02 105 Marina Duvnyak (NZl) New Zealand 11.13 106 Kathleen Sterckx (Bel) Belgique 11.15 107 Iris Slappendel (Ned) Netherlands 11.19 108 Helen Kelly (Aus) Elk Haus No 11.20 109 Sandra Missbach (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 11.21 110 Emmanuelle Merlot (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 11.23 111 Agne Bagdonaviciute (Ltu) Lithuania 11.24 112 Sabine Fischer (Ger) Germany 11.26 113 Mélanie Bravard (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 11.39 114 Sabrina Bernardi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 11.44 115 Anna Sanchis Chafer (Spa) Spain 11.49 116 Kim Schoonbaert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 11.54 117 Luisa Tamanini (Ita) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 11.55 118 Vicky Founial (Fra) France 12.43 119 Loes Markerink (Ned) Netherlands 15.46 120 Dale Tye (NZl) New Zealand 15.53 121 Bertine Spijkerman (Ned) Netherlands 16.15 122 Carissa Wilkes (NZl) New Zealand 16.43 123 Karin Thurig (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 124 Christina Becker (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 125 Ine Beyen (Bel) Belgique 126 Sjoujke Dufoer (Bel) Belgique 127 Magali Mocquery (Fra) France 128 Kettj Manfrin (Ita) A.S. Team F.R.W 129 Laura Pisaneschi (Ita) A.S. Team F.R.W 130 Karin Ruso (Aut) Elk Haus No 131 Heike Schramm (Ger) Germany 132 Marlen Johrend (Ger) Germany 133 Shannon Koch (USA) Usa 134 Sima Trapp (USA) Usa 135 Maitane Telletxea Lopez (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda-Durango 136 Auxiliadora Martin Morales (Spa) Spain 137 Alicia Palop Rubio (Spa) Spain 138 Silvia Tirado Marquez (Spa) Spain 139 Elena Eifler (Ger) Fenixs - Colnago 140 Ilenia Lazzaro (Ita) Fenixs - Colnago 141 Urte Juodvalkyte (Ltu) Lithuania 142 Edita Unguryte (Ltu) Lithuania 143 Amee Mosen (NZl) New Zealand 144 Leticia Gil Parra (Spa) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 145 Sonia Bazire (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 146 Emilie Jeannot (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope
1 Ina Teutenberg (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 120 pts 2 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team 117 3 Oenone Wood (Aus) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 80 4 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Ned) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 75 5 Sarah Ulmer (NZl) 75 6 Miho Oki (Jpn) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 73 7 Judith Arndt (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 65 8 Christiane Soeder (Aut) Univega Pro Cycling Team 59 9 Annette Beutler (Swi) Elk Haus Nö 58 10 Tina Mayolo Pic (USA) 57 11 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 47 12 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) Univega Pro Cycling Team 41 13 Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 40 14 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 35 15 Katherine Bates (Aus) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 35 16 Edwige Pitel (Fra) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 35 17 Zoulfia Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla Cycling Team 30 18 Amber Neben (USA) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 27 19 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 27 20 Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Fenixs-Colnago 27 21 Tamara Boyd (NZl) Les Pruneaux d'Agen 26 22 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 24 23 Gina Grain (Can) Giant Pro Cycling 24 24 Theresa Senff (Ger) AA-Drink Cycling Team 24 25 Sofie Goor (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 21 26 Nicole Brändli (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 18 27 Noemi Cantele (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team 15 28 An Van Rie (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 11 29 Sharon Van Dromme (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 11 30 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 10 31 Lang Meng (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling 10 32 Monia Baccaille (Ita) Saccarelli Emu Marsciano 10 33 Suzanne De Goede (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 9 34 Olga Slyusareva (Rus) 9 35 Olivia Gollan (Aus) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 9 36 Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Ltu) A.S. Team F.R.W 8 37 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 8 38 Hayley Brown (Aus) 8 39 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 7 40 Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) A.S. Team F.R.W 7 41 Sarah Düster (Ger) Univega Pro Cycling Team 6 42 Luisa Tamanini (Ita) Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 6 43 Emma Rickards (Aus) Univega Pro Cycling Team 6 44 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 5 45 Volha Hayeva (Blr) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 5 46 Tanja Hennes (Ger) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 4 47 Toni Bradshaw (NZl) Les Pruneaux d'Agen 4 48 Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 3 49 Larissa Kleinmann (Ger) 3 50 Andrea Graus (Aut) Bigla Cycling Team 2 51 Melissa Holt (NZl) 2 52 Kate Nichols (Aus) 2 53 Cindy Pieters (Bel) Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 1 54 Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Fenixs-Colnago 1 55 Nikki Egyed (Aus) 1 56 Catherine Sell (NZl) 1 Teams 1 Univega Pro Cycling Team 237 pts 2 T-Mobile Professional Cycling 185 3 Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 163 4 Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 155 5 Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 111 6 New Zealand National Team 107 7 Bigla Cycling Team 65 8 Elk Haus Nö 58 9 Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 40 10 Russian National Team 36 11 Giant Pro Cycling 34 12 AA-Drink Cycling Team 33 13 Vlaanderen-Caprisonne-T Interim 33 14 USA National team 30 15 A.S. Team F.R.W 15 16 Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan 13 17 Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam 11 18 Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 10 19 Italian National Team 10 20 German National Team 3 21 Fenixs-Colnago 1