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4th Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen - CDM
Belgium, April 8, 2007
By Ben Atkins in Meerbeke
Cooke has finally won the race she has dreamed of winning since it became part of the Women's World Cup in 2003 - on some of the roads she raced on as a young girl, and now has a 100% record in the 2007 World Cup after two rounds.
Cooke's Raleigh Lifeforce team rode a near perfect race, taking control early on, then placing two riders in the deciding group of six after the Muur. Together, Cooke and her teammate Karin Thurig were able to play their tactics perfectly to allow Cooke to take a comfortable victory.
The World Cup leader was quick to emphasise that this was a team victory and praised the efforts of the other Raleigh-Lifeforce riders, "I'm so happy with the girls... I'm hoping that pretty soon one of them will have a chance to get a win to show how good they are in their own right as well." Placing two riders in the break proved to be decisive for the British Champion "we had a numerical advantage in the Raleigh team, so we had to be as careful as we could and choose our moment so that's what we did."
World Champion Marianne Vos, who came in five seconds behind Cooke was visibly disappointed, but spoke to Cyclingnews Brecht Decaluwè after receiving a few words of encouragement from her team-mates; "We were coming up towards the finish with a group of six and with five kilometres to go we started looking at each other whilst attacking whenever we could. With two kilometres to go Zabirova and Cooke got away but it didn't look too dangerous. I'm so disappointed now that it was the decisive attack."
Cooke already looks a very strong bet to retain her World Cup Crown after only two rounds, and the rest of the women's peloton must be wondering how they are going to beat her this season.
How it unfolded
The early tempo was very high as Cooke put her Raleigh-Lifeforce team to work, and succeeded in splitting the peloton to pieces before they had even reached the Wolvenberg - the second climb of the day. The only major incident of these early stages was a serious crash from Belgian National Team rider Kimberly Buyl on the Lippenhovestraat cobbles - she was taken to hospital with an injury to her calf.
On the Valkenberg, with 39km to go, Cooke's teammate, former World Time Trial Champion Karin Thürig went clear and managed to get a gap of 50 seconds. Cooke made her way up to her at the Muur and the two worked together until the final climb of the Bosberg where Cooke continued alone. She was unable to stay away as a group containing Zabirova, Suzanne Ljungskog (Team Flexpoint), Trixi Worrack, (Nurnberger Versicherung), World Champion Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) and Thurig caught up with her on the winding roads. In the final kilometres, Raleigh-Lifeforce were able to make their numerical superiority count, as Thürig attacked with four to go, and the others were forced to chase her, giving Cooke a free ride.
As Thürig was caught, Cooke put in a devastating attack of her own which only Zabirova could follow, and by the time any of the others could react, the pair had consolidated their advantage and were uncatchable. Marianne Vos, realising that this was the winning break, tried to bridge on her own, but was unable to make any ground as Cooke and Zabirova contested the sprint together, with Cooke coming out an easy winner. Vos came in alone - and disappointed - to take third place.
Trixi Worrack escaped to take fourth place and Thürig beat Ljungskog in the sprint for fifth place. Monia Bastianelli (Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan) led a sizeable bunch home 28 seconds back.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net
Images by AFP
Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews
1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 3.11.00 (38.325 km/h) 2 Zoulfia Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla Cycling Team 0.02 3 Marianne Vos (Ned) Team DSB Bank 0.05 4 Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 0.07 5 Karin Thürig (Swi) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 6 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Team Flexpoint 0.09 7 Monia Baccaille (Ita) Saccarelli EMU Marsciano 0.28 8 Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan 9 Sofie Goor (Bel) Vlaanderen - Capri Sonne - T Interim 10 Lorian Graham (Aus) Australian National Team 11 Nikki Egyed (Aus) Australian National Team 12 Andrea Graus (Aut) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 13 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Nor) Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan 14 Annette Beutler (Swi) Team Flexpoint 15 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 16 Emma Rickards (Aus) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 17 Grace Verbeke (Bel) Lotto - Belisol Ladiesteam 18 Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Fenixs - HPB 19 Amber Neben (USA) Team Flexpoint 20 Marina Jaunatre (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 21 Loes Sels (Bel) Vlaanderen - Capri Sonne - T Interim 22 An Van Rie (Bel) AA-Drink Cycling Team 23 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 24 Eva Lutz (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 25 Elsbeth Vink (Ned) Dutch National Team 26 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Team Flexpoint 27 Kristin Armstrong (USA) USA National Team 28 Suzanne De Goede (Ned) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 29 Sabine Spitz (Ger) Team Getränke-Hoffmann 30 Nicole Brändli (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 31 Sarah Düster (Ger) Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 32 Chantal Beltman (Ned) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 33 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Menikini - Selle Italia - Gysko 34 Noemi Cantele (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team 35 Judith Arndt (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 0.58 36 Adrie Visser (Ned) Team DSB Bank 37 Grete Treier (Est) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox 38 Jocelyn Loane (Aus) Australian National Team 39 Evy Van Damme (Bel) Vlaanderen - Capri Sonne - T Interim 40 Eleonora Van Dijk (Ned) Dutch National Team 41 Ludivine Henrion (Bel) Team DSB Bank 42 Martine Bras (Ned) Lotto - Belisol Ladiesteam 43 Silvia Parietti (Ita) Italian National Team 44 Catherine Delfosse (Bel) Lotto - Belisol Ladiesteam 45 Alessandra D'ettorre (Ita) Saccarelli EMU Marsciano 46 Karen Steurs (Bel) AA-Drink Cycling Team 1.10 47 Andrea Thürig (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 48 Andrea Bosman (Ned) Team DSB Bank 49 Irene Van Den Broek (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 50 Alison Powers (USA) USA National Team 51 Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA-Drink Cycling Team 52 Oenone Wood (Aus) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 53 Olivia Gollan (Aus) Menikini - Selle Italia - Gysko 54 Sissy Van Alebeek (Ned) Dutch National Team 55 Emma Johansson (Swe) Vlaanderen - Capri Sonne - T Interim 56 Stephanie Pohl (Ger) Team Getränke-Hoffmann 57 Daniela Fusar Poli (Ita) Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan 58 Birgit Hollmann (Ger) Team Getränke-Hoffmann 59 Marta Vilajosana Andreu (Spa) Team Cmax Dila - Guericiotti - Cogeas 60 Charlotte Becker (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 61 Elisabeth Braam (Ned) Therme Skin Care 62 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Menikini - Selle Italia - Gysko 63 Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) AA-Drink Cycling Team 64 Edwige Pitel (Fra) Team Uniqa 65 Monika Schachl (Aut) Team Uniqa 66 Brooke Miller (USA) USA National Team 67 Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Lithuanian National Team 3.35 68 Helen Wyman (GBr) Global Racing Team 69 Lieselot Decroix (Bel) Lotto - Belisol Ladiesteam 70 Daniela Pintarelli (Aut) Team Uniqa 71 Laure Werner (Bel) Vlaanderen - Capri Sonne - T Interim 72 Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Dutch National Team 73 Debby Van De Berg (Ned) Global Racing Team 74 Tanja Hennes (Ger) Bigla Cycling Team 75 Dolores Rupp (Swi) Swiss National Team 76 Veronica Andreasson (Swe) Bigla Cycling Team 77 Alessandra Borchi (Ita) Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan 78 Iris Slappendel (Ned) Team Flexpoint 79 Mie Bekker Lacota (Den) Team Flexpoint 7.35 80 Alessia Quarta (Ita) Saccarelli EMU Marsciano 81 Sharon Van Essen (Ned) Team DSB Bank 82 Liesbeth De Vocht (Bel) Lotto - Belisol Ladiesteam HD Sabine Fischer (Ger) German National Team 9.40 HD Regina Schleicher (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 11.40