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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Saturday, 27 September 2008 15:52 UK
23-28 September, Varese, Italy

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By Paul Fletcher

1550: Well that is it from me, I hope you enjoyed the race as much as I did. That last lap was just pure excitement, no ifs, no buts. And don't forget it is the men's road race on Sunday. More drama, surely.

1549: "There were times when we thought it just wasn't going to happen but no, it was almost as though it was written for Nicole Cooke."
BBC Sport pundit Chris Boardman

1544: What a brilliant finish from Nicole Cooke, who marked move after move and then dug in deep when it matters most to out-sprint Marianne Vos and cross the line first.

1543: Cooke is now the world road champion as well as the Olympic gold medallist.

1543: Cooke wins, beating Vos in a sprint finish.

1543: Sprint finish.

1542: All or nothing for Johansson. Into the final straight.

1540: Cooke is caught, now Johansson goes. The others just watch, the other four were caught napping.

1540: Ouch, Cooke attacks. Worrack is dropped.

1539: Arndt has a go. If it isn't one German, it's another. Roughly two kilometres to go.

1538: "This is proper bike racing. Absolutely fabulous stuff. My heart is in my mouth watching it. The Germans have still got the strongest hand though and are using it well."
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1537: This is brilliant. Five big name racers in the mixer, attacking and counter attacking. Loving it. No attacks from Cooke yet. What does she have up her sleeve?

1536: Worrack off the front. Another attack from the German. She is heavily marked.

1535: Cantele - I really don't think she is going to be able to close the gap.

Vos is caught. We are moving quickly towards drama central. Who will counter next?

1533: A long, long climb and Vos looks to be in pain. Worrack working hard to close the Ditch rider down.

1532: Vos of the Netherlands goes off the front and pulls clear. Can the others close her down?

1530: The five are together, looking at each other. Who will make the move? Worrack has a big go but the others follow. Then German compatriot Arndt counter attacks. Team tactics.

1528: Pooley is out of the mixer now but did a lot of hard work with her constant attacks, whittling down the field and helping to reel in the breakaway.

We now have a group of five - Worrack, Vos, Johansson, Arndt and Cooke. The winner will be one of these. All are big hitters.

1526: Germany's Trixi Worrack and Holland's Marianne Vos are also in the front group - both of them attack.

1522: Noemi Cantele - who hails from Veresa - is trying to bridge the gap and get back with the small group at the front. Cooke is in that group.

Ljungskog punctures at exactly the wrong moment but Swedish compatriot Emma Johansson, silver medallist in Beijing, is in the leading group and firmly in the mixer.

1521: Chaos at the front now. We are on the final lap and there are constant attacks. Germany's Judith Arndt attacks but Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog also looks strong.

1515: There is one lap of the race remaining. Aussie Egyed has had a really big go but has been reeled in and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands has now launched a counter attack.

It is a vicious attack and Cooke, in the background, looks to be really suffering.

The breakaway that led for so long has been caught. All that effort by Armstrong - and for what?

1512: "Beginning to wonder, which team is going to try to close the gap?

"The break has got two Germans, two Lithuanians, a Frenchwoman, an Italian, a Spaniard, a Belgian, a Brit, an Australian, an American and a Mexican.

"Maybe everyone's waiting for Holland to start chasing. Or maybe the gap isn't closing because they all don't mind it being ahead... just not too far ahead."
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1510: Australia's Nikki Egyed really puts a huge effort in, bursting off the front with just over one lap to go.

1506: Germany's Luise Keller loses touch with the breakaway - doubtless as a consequence of Armstrong really putting down the hammer.

1505: The breakaway reaches a climb and plucky American Armstrong tries to go off the front. It doesn't work but you cannot fault her for guts, effort and endeavour.

1500: Three hours of racing completed. Leaden skies over Varese but it will turn into a day of sunshine and joy for one rider.

1457: A French rider and an Italian rider enter earnest discussions. We have reached that time when schemes are being concocted and alliances of convenience formed.

1454: GB's Jess Allen struggling towards the back.

It looks as though the breakaway is really losing ground as the constant attacks off the front of the chasing pack start to pay off.

1451: About an hour left and there are some ructions at the front of the breakaway. A Lithuanian rider is angrier than a dog stung by a wasp with the lack of work being done by the other riders.

Pooley has yet another dig off the front of the chasing pack but lacks the legs to pull away.

1444: There is a crash involving Christine Thorburn of the US and Poland's Sylwia Kapusta. They came together on a corner and require mechanical assistance.

1441: Attacks are coming with increased frequency now. Sharon Laws marks an Italian who goes off the front. There is no real hint yet of anyone working together to bridge the gap.

1440: Pooley has another dig off the front. Great aggression. She is quickly caught but nevertheless the weak are struggling and several more drop off the back on what seems to be a permanent basis.

1439: "They never mention Armistead on the commentary yet she seems to be doing a good job as a passenger with the leading group - I've never seen her do any work...."
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1437: "This could be the day Nicole Cooke sits back and covers the attacks by her GB colleagues.

"I've only spotted Jessica Allen hanging on the back of the bunch, but Armitstead is doing well at the front. Good to see these younger racers included."
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1435: One of the climbs has reduced the size of the peloton to the region of 50-60 riders.

As for the lead, it is constantly dropping down to the 40-second mark but then increasing considerably. It currently stands at about 90 seconds.

1432: The pace is definitely on the up at the front of the chasing pack, if you could call it that as the riders are split along the road.

1430: Any further thoughts on who is going for gold today - and I don't mean Henry Kelly.
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1425: Pooley and Cooke in conversation towards the front of the pack. I don't think they're discussing tonight's pasta and wine combo.

1422: (See 1332) An update on the Judith Arndt situation. The German has not abandoned and it still very much in the chasing pack. Lots of the big hitters are towards the front of the group but who will lead the way and set the pace to try to close down the gap?

1417: We are through five laps. Armstrong is still on the front but looks increasingly fatigued.

The leading group is 1 min 13 secs clear.

Horns are blowing, the crowds have turned out in number, five or six deep in places. We are moving towards the business end of the race and it is boiling up nicely.

1415: "BBC One showed Sharon Laws crash (earlier this year) from three angles. OOF! She was lucky to come out of that with only a broken fibula.

"I reckon this race will finish in a bunch sprint, and haven't a clue who will take it."
jophinejophine on 606
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A bunch sprint - will that really suit our riders? I'm not so sure. Perhaps more to the liking of someone like Dutch rider Marianne Vos.

1410: Pooley, bang - off the front again. The brave Brit is heavily marked by an Italian.

1407: The riders are moving through the feed station.

1404: Cooke is marking well at the front of the chasing group, Pooley is tucked further back in it. The lead is at 1 min, 20 secs.

1401: GB's Jess Allen had briefly lost contact with the main field but has made up the lost ground.

1355: "First thing seems to be whether the break of 12 will be caught.

"Seems like the gap has not grown enough and is now coming down. At the half way point gap down to 1.11 - so they will be caught in plenty of time for further attacks.

"Emma Pooley at the back of the main pack doesn't look brilliant at the half-way mark..."
ManxLondoner on 606
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Pooley must have been storing up some energy because she has just burst off the front, really trying to ramp up the pace.

1353: "Can't figure out what the USA's plan is. Maybe they wanted a fast race, maybe Armstrong is just angry about not getting a TT medal."
jophinejophine on 606
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Armstrong went off from almost the start and has put a massive dig in already. I'd been amazed if she is still (in the) mixer at the end.

1350: The half-way point. Four laps down, four remain. The drama-ometer will only be heading north from this point. The breakaway is at 1 min, 11 secs. No question, the gap is coming down. GB's Elizabeth Armitstead is in the leading group.

1348: Come on, I really, really, really, really, really want to know what you think about this race? Who is your money on?
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1343: Still awaiting confirmation as to whether Arndt has pulled out. As soon as I have rock solid news I'll be hitting you with it.

1337: The main field appears to be splitting as the pursuit of the leading group starts to take shape. Cooke is nicely positioned towards the front of the main bunch, ensuring she won't miss out on any significant moves.

1335: Arndt said before the race that her form was very good but added the somewhat rather prescient caveat that her season has had a lot of ups and downs. Arndt, of course, took bronze in Wednesday's time trial.

1332: Now, don't get too carried as this has yet to be confirmed but one of the pre-race favourites Judith Arndt of Germany has abandoned on the fourth lap. Big news, no doubt.

Cooke remains in the main group, as does most of the riders to be fair.

1325: We are one hour, 25 minutes into the race. There are five of the eight laps left and the breakaway is more than two minutes clear. Armstrong is still at the front of the leading 12, working, working, working. Does the American really think that pushing so hard so early in the race can unlock the door to gold medal success?

1315: Armstrong of America still at the front and doing plenty of work. I cannot imagine namesake Lance putting in so much effort so early in the race. A regular stream of riders are calling it a day.

1305: The lead group comprises 12 riders. They lead by 1 min 18 secs. We are witnessing the first signs that the Dutch don't want the breakaway to grow any more as a couple of riders in orange have moved to the front of the chasing main bunch.

1301: It seems a long time now since Cooke brought home the bacon with a valiant ride in the pouring rain at the Olympics. It was 10 August - and GB's first gold of the games.

Pooley came 23rd in that event and Laws 35th.
Cooke grabs first GB gold medal

1255: Breakaway update - the lead is now one minute, 15 seconds. No sense of urgency from the main field and plenty of big hitters are contained within in - including Nicole Cooke and heavily fancied Dutch riders such as Marianne Vos.

1250: Hats off to Lithuania. They have a couple of riders in the break and are determined to make it work. I'm not so sure that everyone else shares their sentiment.

1247: It is a cloudy, overcast day in Varese, with autumnal leaves occasionally drifting across the road. Varese is in the Lombardy region of Italy, in the north of the country.

1243: The breakaway group is at 27 seconds. Their lead is tumbling.

1241: A problem for GB's Sharon Laws, who appears to have punctured her front tyre. Another GB rider may have to drop back to help her rejoin the main pack.

1240: The breakaway group is still clear and efforts to chase them down lack cohesion at the moment, with one rider at the front, then another, with no-one really working together.

1231: GB are leading the field chasing down the leading pack, with Sharon Laws on the front and putting in some serious work. The German team have three riders in the breakaway.

1225: Armstrong is leading a dozen or so riders who are putting some time into the main bunch. GB's Elizabeth Armitstead is in the break. Surely this is hugely early days to try to be launching any kind of decisive break?
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1219: Another early attack from experienced American Kristin Armstrong, who goes off the front. She is heavily marked.

1217: Got money on Mariya Slokotovich? Forget it, the Kazakh has crashed after going wide at a bend and her race looks to be over. There will be no make benefit glorious for Kazakhstan today as Slokotovich is their only rider in the field.

1213: American Kori Kelley Seehafer tries to go off the front but is quickly reeled in. At the other end the early pace is proving too much for Czech republic rider Jarmila Machacova, who is slipping off the back.
1210: Nicole Cooke is the main medal hope for GB but she is supported by four team-mates - Jessica Allen, Elizabeth Armistead, Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley, who came eighth in the time trial.

1205: One rider at the head of the field changes line and oops, loads of riders crash and there is a massive road race traffic jam as the field is obviously still very bunched with the race just minutes old.

1203: Let's get involved with a little race information. The race takes place in Varese, Italy and is eight laps of the track, a total of 173.5km.

1200: They are off. Feel the excitement.

1155 BST: We are five minutes from the start of the race.

Could it be the big double for Great Britain's Nicole Cooke?

The Welsh rider has already bagged Olympic gold this year and said that she feels in pretty good shape going into this race.

Since 2003 Cooke has won two bronze and one silver in this event - and boasts plenty of experience at this level.

Last year's winner, Marta Bastianelli of Italy, is currently serving a doping ban but several big names still pose a real danger. Not least among them is Germany's Judith Arndt.

Arndt, who won bronze in the time trial, warned "I've been preparing specifically for the road race."

Do you think Cooke will do it? And it not who will?

see also
Swift misses under-23 road medal
26 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Grabsch storms to time trial win
25 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Neben claims time trial victory
24 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Malori wins under-23 time trial
23 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Cooke leads GB Worlds challenge
22 Sep 08 |  Cycling

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