Briton wins stage; Ljungskog takes yellow
By Ben Atkins in Rieux Minervois
Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) has taken her first victory of 2008 in magnificent style by winning the sprint from a group of five on the slightly downhill finish into Rieux Minervois. Just five kilometres from the line the British champion was in a group 30 seconds behind the leading four, consisting of the 2007 top three: Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini-Selle Italia), Trixi Worrack (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) and Judith Arndt (High Road), and Cooke's Great Britain team-mate Sharon Laws. An attack from that second group saw Cooke catch the leaders with less than two kilometres to go and Laws successfully led her captain out for the sprint.
"It was teamwork! Really good!" exclaimed an ecstatic Cooke to Cyclingnews. "You saw the style of how I did it: bridge from the bunch... I think it was thirty seconds or something and I bridged it. We told Sharon [Laws] to stop working and I think that disrupted the leaders a little bit, and Sharon still had the go to lead it out."
"All I had to do was think about the sprint," she added.
In answer to the question on whether or not this victory means that her form is beginning to arrive, Cooke was far more circumspect. "It's a win," she replied candidly. "You don't ever knock a win do you?" she added laughing.
As for her attack, in the closing stages, Cooke revealed that the intention had never been to go solo, merely to start to add her own efforts to the chase."I didn't mean to attack the little break, I thought: 'Okay I'll help you guys now'. I got to the front and I was like: 'I'm alone!'"
"I went to the front because we'd told Sharon to stop working, and I just left them. Then I bridged and Sharon led it out."
Second placed Trixie Worrack was happy with the way the stage had turned out: "It was pretty hard," she told Cyclingnews on her way to the podium. "I wanted the group to stay away because otherwise the work would be for nothing – then we can go up the mountain slow, and then stay in the group and not go fast!
"I was surprised that she came back," Worrack said of Cooke's bridging across. "She's fast, so it's okay that she won the sprint, but I was surprised that she came back and then won the sprint. But she's strong," she added.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour de l'Aude stage one.