World champion Nicole Cooke (Great Britain), right, and French national champion Christelle Ferrier-Bruneau await the start of the GP de Plouay-Bretagne.
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Puncture put Briton out of the picture
Despite being visibly one of the strongest riders, Great Britain's world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke was prevented from fighting for a podium spot behind compatriot Emma Pooley by a problem in the closing stages.
"I couldn't [sprint], I had a rear puncture," she told Cyclingnews afterwards.
"Well, I was ready to do a good sprint and at least get a measure of where I was with my sprinting and I'm really disappointed that as I punctured with a kilometre to go I couldn't even contest the sprint. Normally I want to give my best but today I couldn't because of a mechanical, but at least I was there and got something for the hard work I'd put in anyway."
"I think the climbs were decisive rather than the wind," she said of the conditions on the course. She herself had launched a solo chase of Pooley inside the final lap, but although she managed to cut the gap in half - to less than 40 seconds - she was unable to close it completely and was forced to wait for what became the remains of the chase group.
"They gave me the time checks," she said, confirming that she was aware of just how much she was gaining on the lone Cervélo rider, "but I knew that I had to measure my effort on the course, and the first part was just establishing my gap and then getting into my rhythm."
Despite the disappointment of the race finale, Cooke's own form as well as the performance of other Britons in the race, most notably Pooley and the recent return from injury of Sharon Laws gives Cooke real cause for optimism for the defence of her world title in Mendriso, Switzerland, in less than five weeks' time.
"Yeah, I think so; it's good," she agreed.
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