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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Cooke happy with road-race bronze
By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport in Melbourne

Wales' Nicole Cooke
Wales' Cooke was pipped for silver by Australian Oenone Woods
Nicole Cooke missed out in the defence of her Commonwealth road race title on Sunday when Australia's Natalie Bates won gold on the streets of Melbourne.

The Welsh rider had gone into the race confident of repeating the gold she won in Manchester four years ago but still finished on the podium.

Cooke, 23, was nudged out for silver by another Australian Oenone Wood.

Rachel Heal was England's best-placed rider - she finished in fifth place despite suffering two falls.

Afterwards Cooke described her bronze as "as good as gold".

She said: "I'm absolutely delighted. I had to make a decision - either cover every Australian break and tire myself out or place my bets and hold out.

"There were six Canadians and six New Zealand riders in the race and none of them medalled, but I was the sole Welsh one and managed it, and I'm over the moon.

"It's everything I could have hoped for and I did everything I could."

Natalie Bates
Bates went clear of the breakaway to clinch gold in Melbourne

England's Emma Davies Jones had looked on target to add to her velodrome bronze when she was part of a five-rider breakaway on lap two of nine.

The group, which included Bates, Canada's Mandy Poitras, Kiwi Toni Bradshaw and Noor Alias, of Malaysia, stayed clear for most of the race and built a lead of more than four minutes.

Cooke, who had little support in the peloton, made a series of bids to reel them back in, most notably at the end of lap four when she narrowly escaped a massive crash.

Australian rider Olivia Gollan clipped Cooke's back wheel after briefly looking over her shoulder and brought down a host of riders.

Among those to hit the ground were Heal and New Zealand's Melissa Holt, who retired from the race.

Heal, the bronze medallist in Manchester four years ago, resumed racing, only to crash again, before rejoining the main pack for her impressive fifth.

The crash briefly saw the gap to the leaders cut before Bates made her break and pulled well clear of her fellow breakaway riders on lap seven.

None of the remaining four riders worked sufficiently to cut the gap and she was able to ease up over the line.

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