Cooke takes her 10th British title

Nicole Cooke (Vision 1) triumphed in Abergavenny on Saturday to win the British national women's road race championships for the 10th time. Cooke out sprinted Lizzie Armitstead (Lotto-Belisol) and Emma Pooley (Cervelo) at the end of a tough 110km event.

The race started from the town at 1:00 pm local time with the sun shining brightly. Temperatures on the road were approaching 30 degrees Celsius. The speed on the first lap was relatively slow with Catherine Williamson (Fenix) taking her chance to slip away and gain a three-minute advantage. Pooley was the first to react as the bunch drew close at the end of the first lap - she made a serious attempt to drive a wedge between herself and race favourite Cooke. Cooke reacted and struck out to join Pooley with only Armitstead able to hang on to the Welsh woman's wheel.

The leaders merged together and to forge a solid lead on the second lap. Williamson began to suffer and eventually lost contact but the determined rider held on to take fourth place and was controversially awarded the bronze medal.

The leading trio took turns attacking each other on the finishing circuit, but it all came down to the super fast downhill sprint in the town centre where Cooke blasted her way down the finishing straight and into the record books. Armitstead took second place and was the first Under 23 rider with Pooley just behind her.

Armitstead was beaming on the podium as she was awarded the Under 23 gold medal and was then close to tears when she was told by race commissaries that she was ineligible to be awarded medals in both championships and would not be awarded the silver in the senior event. There was a delay in telling the Yorkshire girl about the ruling, and then it was too late for her to make a decision about which one she wanted.

The ruling shocked many people as Joanna Rowsell was awarded two medals in the championships last year in similar circumstances. Armitstead left the ceremony before the senior medals were awarded and was clearly upset about the decision.

Pooley's medal was upgraded from bronze to silver and Williamson was awarded the bronze.

"This was very special win for me with number ten," said Cooke: "It is very sad what happened to Lizzie with the silver medal. In sport you have things in black and white and Lizzie was second in the results and a very worthy winner of that medal. Everyone was disappointed and no one wanted to take a medal that wasn't theirs. We are all competitors and we all want a fair result and that is what we had on paper. It was very special for me today to win the jersey with the home crowd on a beautiful course and with a really good finish as well. Emma (Pooley) put a hard attack on the first lap and it was good to be able to judge how she was going at that point."

"All of us had tried attacking on the finishing circuit," said Cooke. "I knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish and I have had some good sprint finishes in the last few weeks so I was feeling OK . You can't ever be totally confident but I just knew that I could produce a good finish if I got my timing right and didn't make any mistakes. The team has had a couple of really good weeks. We have got a great team spirit and have got the momentum going now in what is a very small team in its first year."

"The course today had a lot to offer. I have done a lot of training on these roads and had the home support which is always an advantage. I am still as motivated to race as when I first started. I have achieved my dream of becoming World and Olympic champion but I still love the thrill of racing and very happy to continue. My big target of the season is the World Championships."

Pooley had tried her best to beat Cooke when she attacked on the first circuit to bridge the gap to the early leader. "You have to put a lot of effort if you want to win the race," said Pooley. "I am a bit disappointed to be honest, but it is not unexpected. Williamson was very courageous to attack early. I would have liked to have done that myself but some riders are marked and can't get away. She did a great ride today."

"The medal hullabaloo was another thing but it was still an excellent ride from her. It would have suited me if there were more hills but Nicole is a good climber, too. I would have liked to have climbed the tumble because if the boys are racing over it, then I think we should too. I attacked on the drag on the first finishing circuit and that didn't work, so then I attacked on the downhill section on the second. I suppose I could have saved my energy but I don't believe I would have won the sprint anyway."

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Elite women
1Nicole Cooke (Vision 1)
2Lizzie Armitstead* (Lotto)
3Emma Pooley (Cervelo)
4Catherine Williamson (Fenixs)
5Katie Colclough* (100% ME)
6Julia Shaw
7Nikki Harris (Flexpoint)
8Danni King* (Vision 1)
9Lucy Martin (100% ME)
10Charlotte Colclough (100% ME)
11Claire Thomas (Edinburgh RC)
12Leanne Thompson (Hewitt Racing)
13Alli Northcott (Shred Racing)
14Katie Curtis (Vision 1)
15Anne Ewing (Edinburgh RC)
16Sarah Storey (VC St Raphael)
17Julie Cooke (Altura)
18Emma Trott (R&TC Groenewoud)
19Angela Pike (Shred Racing)
20Kara Chesworth (Dysynni)


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