Nicole rides home for Wales
03 August 2002
Nineteen-year-old Nicole Cooke of Wales overshot a bend on the final lap but still claimed gold in an eventful women’s road race on Saturday.
Cooke celebrates her gold medal winner
Cooke, who has won four world junior titles, came into the Commonwealth Games with high expectations but performed disappointingly in the road time trial and track points race.
Those memories were erased by the powerful sprint that she produced over the final 400 metres of the 93.6km road race to take the title ahead of Susan Palmer-Komar (CAN) and Rachel Heal (ENG).
It was not until the start of the fifth lap that the field was split in two. With Margaret Hemsley taking the initiative, a group of 12 riders opened up a 34-second gap.
The group included four Australians (Hemsley, Anna Millward, Hayley Rutherford and Liz Tadich), two Canadians (Palmer-Komar and Lyne Bessette), two English (Heal and Frances Newstead), two New Zealanders (Melissa Holt and Roz Reekie-May), Scotland’s Caroline Alexander and Cooke.
By the end of lap six, the gap had opened up to 1min 36secs with Hemsley still looking strongest.
Halfway around the penultimate lap (seven) another Hemsley attack took Palmer-Komar, Heal and Reekie-May away from the pack and the quartet opened up a 13sec lead until, with just over a lap to go, Hemsley broke away solo on an uphill stretch.
As Hemsley sought to make this lead decisive on the subsequent downhill, her front wheel skidded on the still-damp road and she slid uncontrollably across the tarmac. Hemsley rode to the finish but has a suspected broken collar-bone.
On the final lap it became apparent that the leading group of Rutherford, Bessette, Palmer-Komar, Heal, Reekie-May, Alexander and Cooke were not going to be caught.
Alexander – who missed out on mountain bike gold on Monday because of a split tyre – was the first to break for home.
The Scot made her move on the bottom of the final climb but she could not shake off Bessette and Cooke. The three riders briefly looked as though they would get away from the field, but Heal closed the gap.
On the same descent that accounted for Hemsley, Cooke lost concentration and had to bring her bike almost to a standstill to avoid colliding with a stone wall.
But the Welsh youngster powered back with a kilometre to go. Heading down the finishing straight, seven riders were in contention, but Cooke timed her final sprint for the line to perfection, finishing in a time of 2:35.17.
Palmer-Komar was under a second behind, a split-second ahead of Heal.
Cooke said at a press conference later: “Secretly I thought I could win, but at the start of the win I set myself some pretty big ambitions, so yes I did think I could win this.
“I noticed that Lyne Bessette was at the back of the group and I just kept my eye on the Aussies. Then Caroline Alexander made a break and that increased all our speeds. With just under 400m to go Caroline went again hard. I just went with her and was able to hold it at the line,” she beamed.
Women’s road race result:
1: Nicole Cooke (WAL) – 2:35.17
2: Susan Komar-Palmer (CAN) – 2:35.18
3: Rachel Heal (ENG) – 2:35.18
Info News Service/jl/pjt