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Cooke ready for Flanders

Nicole Cooke has made her intentions known for this Sunday's women's Tour of Flanders after winning the 7th Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio, Italy, last Monday, March 28.

The race, held in the province of Varese, featured a 93 kilometre-long parcours, comprising 10 flat 6km laps before finishing with three 11km laps that included a short climb at the start of each lap. Unsurprisingly, the action didn't begin until the peloton came into the finishing circuits, with Cooke's Safi-Pasta Zara team-mates Guissepina Grazzi and Anna Zugno present in a break of eight riders on the first ascent.

Each time over the climb, however, the race regrouped, although by the final lap, the front group numbered around 20 riders, with Zungo doing plenty of work to keep Cooke up front. "Anna worked really hard to maintain the pace over the last four k after the final hill," Cooke recalled on her website, "There was a group of around 20 of us and I was fourth or fifth wheel coming into the final bend with 250m to go."

In the sprint finish, Cooke took the inside line to beat her former Ausra Gruodis-Safi team-mate of two seasons ago, Katia Longhin, by half a wheel, with Miho Oki (USC Chirio Forno D'Asolo) third. "I'm really happy to have won. It was a big day for the team and they worked really hard for me again today," said Cooke.

"It'll be different over the 'Muurs' in Flanders," she cautioned. "They've added an extra four of these tough climbs to make it 12 in all for the Tour of Flanders. I was able to see the course during a trip to Belgium last week, and the pavé will help to make it a real test too."

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