By Anthony Tan in Huy
It's one thing to meet expectations, but another to exceed them. Before today's ninth edition of the women's Flèche Wallonne, Nicole Cooke had already claimed two victories in this race, and all eyes were on this Welsh wonder to do it all again, despite her team appearing to have considerably less firepower than the might of Nürnberger and T-Mobile.
But today atop the Mur de Huy, this recently-turned 23 year-old did what she set out to accomplish, and it had plenty to do with the unity displayed her Univega team of women, who bonded together to give her every possible chance of victory, with Cooke arising from the climb's savage slopes a comfortable winner over Judith Arndt (T-Mobile) and Trixi Worrack (Nürnberger).
"Well, I was confident I would be up at the front, challenging for the podium, but you can never be sure because there's so many strong riders and you can never tell," said Cooke to Cyclingnews, minutes after crossing the line and still puffing and panting from her explosive effort she's both renowned and feared for.
Asked what her team plan was at the start of the day, she exclaimed with a smile: "To try and get me to win somehow!