La Flèche Wallonne
British Road Race champion Nicole Cooke (Univega Pro Cycling Team) prooved that when the going gets tough and the sprint for the line is even tougher, she is pretty hard to beat. After Russian Olga Zabelinskaia's last 40kms attack from the main group, it was 28 riders who contested the sprint up the infamous Mur de Huy which is a nasty little switchback climb on tight narrow streets, which is the centre piece for the tough and hilly Ardennes classic.
Cooke made a text book effort, saving her kick for when the line was in sight. She overhauled a fading Oenone Wood who had attacked at the base of the 1 kilometre long climb.
This must be a huge boost for the Welsh rider as she now trails Wood by a mere 3 points in the World Cup standings and has finally returned to form after a few injury problems.
She spoke to here website after the race saying that:
"You need strong legs and plenty of will power to win this race, but I also benefitted from a strong team and plenty of support from the crowd over those final lung burning metres up the Mur."
"We have a very strong team at Univega-Raleigh-Lifeforce with plenty of options for all races. Today's plan was to get me in a position to challenge up the final climb, and they worked hard to do just that."
"The final climb is only 1km long, but it's so steep it takes longer than you think. When Theresa Senff made the early pace on the climb and when Oenone Wood attacked through the hairpains I just rode at the pace I knew was right for me. I did think if either of them was strong enough to keep that up then they would deserve the victory."
"Maybe my past experiences on this climb paid off, but I had to switch off the pain receptors to keep the effort going for the final few hundred metres!"
Links: Nicole Cooke's Site
La Flèche Wallonne - Results - 106 km
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
World Cup Standings (after round 4)
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
World Cup Team Standings (after round 4)
1. Univega Pro Cycling Team 237 pts
2. T-Mobile Professional Cycling 185
3. Buitenpoort-Flexpoint Team 163