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Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games
Manchester, England, July 27 - August 3, 2002
August 3 - Women's Road Race, Rivington, 93.4 km
Welsh wonder wins women's road race.
By Gerry McManus, Cyclingnews correspondent in Rivington
Nicole Cooke (Wales) added the Commonwealth crown to her growing list of achievements by winning the women's road race on the Rivington circuit near Bolton on Saturday. In a seven-up sprint for the line after nearly 58-miles of racing, she took the chequered flag ahead of Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada) and Rachael Heal (England) who completed the podium positions.
The race had started under a veil of mist on the Lancashire countryside as the 35 riders set off for 8 laps of the 7.2-mile circuit.
Arriving at the first climb, it was Clara Hughes (Canada) leading the bunch up the stepped climb at the back of the circuit, with Australia and New Zealand also in evidence near the front.
The roads were still damp from four days of constant rain but it didn't seem to affect the New Zealand riders as they took to the front with pursuit medallist Sarah Ulmer showing she was still strong after her gold medal win on the previous evening.
The first few laps were fairly uneventful with the bunch remaining largely intact. World multi-medallist Cooke was content to sit in the bunch but was never far from the front.
At the end of lap three, it was Katrina Hair (Wales) and Joanne Caville (Scotland) leading the bunch through the finish and as they made it to the climb again, the sunshine broke through. Cooke applied a little pressure on the climb and for the first time the group looked like they were using their talents a little.
Just before half distance, the serious racing started with Hughes on the front and gaps were starting to appear, ironically on the flat. Now the attacks were coming thick and fast with Kirsty Robb (NZL) managing to split the bunch for a while.
A Canadian initiated move finally broke the elastic when Palmer-Komar took eight riders with her and with another joining on, the most significant race move had been made and they swiftly gained a 50 second lead at the end of lap six. Anna Millward (Australia), defending champion Lyne Bessette (Canada), Caroline Alexander (Scotland) and Nicole Cooke had all made the 12-strong group. Margaret Hemsley (Australia) looked amongst the strongest and knew the course well having taken fourth place in the time-trial.
A small spark from of Palmer-Komar, Hemsley, Rachel Heal (England) and Roz Reekie-May (NZL) was quickly extinguished after it had established a lead of only twenty seconds with Alexander doing most of the chase work. Just before the group came back together, Hemsley attacked strongly, going clear very quickly, looking behind to survey the damage she had done and behind the group, Millward was in trouble off the back.
Just as it started to look like a race-winning move, Hemsley crashed on the descent and got up in time to see seven riders fly by. Millward stopped to work with Hemsley until she decided that her injury was too serious. It was eventually discovered that she had broken her collarbone.
Millward was left chasing with Frances Newstead but the English girl refused to work fearing that she would bring the Aussie up to her teammate Rachel Heal.
On the final lap the lead group was indeed multi-national with each nation having one rider with the exception of Canada who had the advantage of having two in Bessette and Palmer-Komar.
The seven were together on the final climb and on the descent, Cooke almost crashed in the same place as Hemsley and the incident cost her a few seconds on her breakaway companions, forcing her to chase her way back. But with only two kilometres to go, the break slowed and began their cat-and-mouse tactics, giving Cooke the time to chase back on. The Welsh rider caught the break with the one kilometre to go, and the break continued to slow and watch for attacks, allowing Cooke time to recover from her chasing effort.
It was a tactical blunder, particularly for experienced riders like Bessette, and as the riders jockeyed for position with 500m to go, Bessette caught her pedal in Reekie-May's wheel and she was out of contention. Scotland's Alexander put in one attack off the front on a small rise as they approached the finish line but she was swept up by the bunch and as they rolled past the 400 metres-to-go sign, Cooke unleashed a powerful surge and cleared out from the field, to easily take the win.
Millward finished behind the main group with Frances Newstead (England) wary about taking the Aussie up to her teammate: "The last lap I was just chasing," she said "I guess Newstead already had a rider in group ahead and I would have been more confident to win than Haley (Rutherford) from the group."
"Earlier I came round the corner when Margaret (Hemsley) was picking herself up and we worked together for a bit but I think she hit her head hard and her helmet was falling off and she didn't feel great so I went on my own."
Nicole Cooke was asked if se thought she was going to win the race: "Definitely," said the Welsh youngster who is in her first year as a senior: "At the start of the year, I set myself some pretty big ambitions and unless you believe in those ambitions, you never really achieve them."
Cooke had managed to get it together after poor performances in the time-trial and points races: "I was upset at what had happened but I thought there was no point in keeping it in my head."
Cooke travels immediately to Holland for the start of the Tour De France Féminin to support her Italian professional team Deia-Pragma-Colnago for the two week duration.
Cooke powers away from indecisive field
By Gerard Knapp
The 2002 Commonwealth Games Women's road race was taken out by 19 year-old Welsh super-talent Nicole Cooke in a burst of power over the final 300 metres which left the remaining riders in the leading break gasping, finishing ahead of Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada) and Rachel Heal (England), who took the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Only one lap earlier, it looked like Australian Margaret Hemsley had the race sewn up, but she fell heavily on a difficult left hand corner on the descent of the penultimate lap of the 90 kilometre race. At the time, Hemsley had a 12 second lead over a quality break of six riders, which include Lyne Bessette of Canada, Cooke of Wales, Caroline Alexander (Scotland), fellow Australian Hayley Rutherford, Palmer-Komar, Heal and Roz Reekie-May (New Zealand).
As Hemsley picked herself up off the ground, the break went past and stayed clear. But then on the final descent it was Cooke's turn to overcook the same tricky left-hander, and she nearly ran into the stone fence on the side of the road. But Cooke stayed on her bike and set off in pursuit of the break. But with only two kilometres to go, the break slowed and began their cat-and-mouse tactics, giving Cooke the time to chase back on. The Welsh rider caught the break with the one kilometre to go, and the break continued to slow and watch for attacks, allowing Cooke time to recover from her chasing effort.
It was a tactical blunder, particularly for experienced riders like Bessette. Scotland's Alexander put in one attack off the front on a small rise as they approached the finish line but she was swept up by the bunch and as they rolled past the 400 metres-to-go sign, Cooke unleashed a powerful surge and cleared out from the field, to easily take the win.
Hemsley had remounted and finished the race, despite heavy lacerations and a broken collarbone, and eventually finished in 12th place, while pre-race favourite Anna Millward (Australia) led home the main chasing bunch to take ninth place, 1.40 behind the leaders.
1 Nicole Cooke (Wales) 2.35.17 (36.165 km/h) 2 Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada) 0.01 3 Rachel Heal (England) 4 Hayley Rutherford (Australia) 5 Roz Reekie-May (New Zealand) 6 Caroline Alexander (Scotland) 7 Lyne Bessette (Canada) 0.02 8 Frances Newstead (England) 0.26 9 Anna Millward (Australia) 1.40 10 Liz Tadich (Australia) 11 Melissa Holt (New Zealand) 12 Margaret Hemsley (Australia) 3.51 13 Rochelle Gilmore (Australia) 7.29 14 Emma Davies (England) 15 Erin Carter (Canada) 16 Ann Bowditch (Guernsey) 7.30 17 Mel Sears (England) 18 Vanessa Guyton (New Zealand) 19 Sally Ashbridge (Scotland) 20 Clara Hughes (Canada) 21 Sara Carrigan (Australia) 22 Nina Davies (Wales) 23 Kirsty Robb (New Zealand) 24 Julia Hawley (Bermuda) 25 Melanie Claude (Bermuda) 26 Sara Symington (England) 27 Penny Edwards (Wales) 28 Sue Carter (England) 29 Sarah Ulmer (New Zealand) 7.31 30 Jacqui Fletcher (Isle of Man) 7.32 31 Joanne Cavill (Scotland) 8.57 32 Katrina Hair (Scotland) 33 Caroline Cook (Scotland) 15.52 34 Sharon Watterson (Isle of Man) 17.01 DNF Hsu Min Chung (Malaysia) DNS Susy Pryde (New Zealand)