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GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise - 1.3
France, February 3, 2004
French first blood to Cooke
Sympathy for Sanchez after brave solo escape
Australian sprinter Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) started his 2004 European campaign with a bang yesterday when he won the Grand Prix La Marseillaise in a sprint finale.
Cooke surged to the front in the final metres of the race, beating Jo Planckaert (Mr. Bookmaker.com-Palmans) and Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi) to the line.
Cooke's victory came at the end of an active race that saw Jacky Durand launch the first significant attack after about 30km. Durand was joined by Fabien Sanchez (FDJeux.com) who eventually forged a long solo break that went right to the wire.
Durand dropped off at the 61km mark, and, encouraged by his directeur sportif Marc Madiot, Sanchez built a gap of over eight minutes before a group of four split away from the peloton to give chase.
The chasing group comprised Stuart O'Grady and teammate Peter Farazijn (Cofidis), Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel), and a rider from Landbouwkrediet-Colnago. The peloton never let them get too far ahead, and they were reeled in just before the final climb.
Two kilometres from the line, Sanchez still had a 45 second advantage and it looked as though his long solo effort would be rewarded, but it was not to be. The peloton charged down on him and he was swallowed up just 70 metres from the line.
Sanchez said he knew that it wouldn't be easy to stay away. "The break was from a long way out, but it was possible," he said. "Hard... But possible. I had friends along the parcours, and my parents came, so I wanted to show myself."
Winner Cooke expressed sympathy for his teammate's near-miss. "It's terrible for him," said Cooke. "I was counting on sprinting for second place. On the climb I thought we had already won, but then in the last metres I saw he was there and he was barely moving. I felt bad for him, but at least we won for the team.
"It's already been a great year for me, and for the team," he said. "Now I'm one of the old ones on the team... I'm only 25, but I already feel old. The young riders want to learn, and they're learning well. It's a great team."
Images by AFP/Boris Horvat-STF
1 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 2 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Mr. Bookmaker.com-Palmans 3 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 4 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Lotto-Domo 5 Gerben Löwik (Ned) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 6 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère 7 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre 8 Jimmy Engoulvant (Fra) Cofidis 9 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Lampre 10 John Nilsson (Swe) Auber 93
2003 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) 2002 Xavier Jan (Fra) Big Mat-Auber 93 2001 Jakob Piil (Den) CSC World Online 2000 Emmanuel Magnien (Fra)