Welsh cyclist Nicole Cooke has won her first Giro Donne in Italy only a couple of months after undergoing knee surgery.
Considered this year (in the absence of the Tour Feminin) to be the women’s equivalent of the Tour de France, the nine-stage Tour covered 879.6km mainly in Northern Italy, and sported plenty of mountains as well as circuit stages and a mountain team time trial over the border in Switzerland.
Riding for team Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan, Cooke finished with an overall time of 21 hours, 33 minutes and 11 seconds – 57 seconds ahead of closest rival Fabiana Luperini of Let’s Go Finland.
Supported by team mates Irina Chuzhynova, Zita Urbonaite, Anna Zugno
and Gessica Turato, Cooke took the leader’s pink jersey for the first time only on Saturday but the lead she took into the 71km final stage was a healthy 49-seconds. A flurry of attacks from key rivals ensured that Cooke had to work hard on the final stage, and come the three 4km circuits ending the race in Milan she took her place in the train to lead out the team’s sprinter Regina Schleicher. Scleicher though, was unlucky and was pipped at the line by Angel Brodtka (Farm Frites Hartol).
Speaking after the race Cooke commented:
“There was no time to enjoy the day early on when there were a few hills, and loads of attacks.
“But once we got onto the flat stages the whole of the team got on the front with me at the back of the line, and that felt really good!
“Winning the Giro was one of my top three objectives of the year. It proves I’m the strongest at the moment. Now I have to think about the most important one, the Olympics.”
In the next few days Cooke will be turning her mind to the Olympics and deciding whether she’ll ride track races as well as the road race and time trial. Spoilt for choice clearly.
It’s much needed great news for British cycling in the run-up to the Olympics and Cooke’s looking a medal favourite.
To see full stage report, results and more from Cooke hop over to her website.