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Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 10:34 UK

Olympic road race glory for Cooke

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Video - Cooke wins first GB gold medal

Nicole Cooke won Wales' first Olympic gold medal for 36 years as she clinched the Olympic road race crown.

The 25-year-old's stunning late charge secured Team GB's first gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"This is what I have dreamed of since I was 11 years old," said Cooke. "It is fantastic, I'm so happy and proud.

The Two-time World Cup champion was in a group of five that pulled away from the peloton in the 6km uphill climb to the finish.

Cooke, who finished fifth in the 2004 Athens Games, then won a sprint to the line before hoisting her arms in the air.

"We did it, it was perfect. It's a dream come true," said a jubilant Cooke, winning the 200th all-time British Olympic gold.

"I want to thank all the people who have been there from the start. I have worked so hard, I am so happy."

The 2002 Commonwealth champion won the prestigious Giro d'Italia in 2004, the women's equivalent to the Tour de France.

And Vale of Glamorgan ace Cooke timed her finish to perfection to clinch another major title in horrendous conditions and torrential rain.

"I'm glad the Chinese authorities laid on some nice Welsh weather for me," joked Cooke.

"It was a very tactical, very hard race and I was always concerned that the group behind would catch us.

She pipped Emma Johansson and Tatiana Guderzo at the finishing line to become the first Welsh woman to win Olympic gold since swimmer Irene Steer at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

Cooke finished in a time of three hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds to become Britain's first Olympic medalist in this event.

"I came over the line and there was so much - I was just so happy and there were so many emotions that were coming out all at once.

"I made so much noise because I guess that's just the person I am.

"I want to thank all the people who have been there from the start. I have worked so hard, I am so happy.

"I don't think it has sunk in yet. I still feel like the normal Nicole from before the race. But it's just so exciting.

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Video - Delighted Cooke gets gold medal

Emma Pooley, who played a crucial pacemaking role in Cooke's gold-medal bid, came 23rd while the third member of the British team Sharon Laws finished in 35th.

"We all knew that we were good riders, but the best chance that we had was to ride as a team," added Cooke.

"Emma gave up her bid for glory but it meant that I could ride defensively and also save myself.

"I think it put the other teams on the back foot. The team worked so hard and the organisation was the best it ever has been - it's a pity they can't all get medals."

Simon Clegg, Team GB's chef de mission, said: "What a medal - it's not only gold but it's Team GB's 200th gold medal from the modern Olympic Games.

"Emma and Sharon did an awesome job in supporting Nicole in her race for gold."

Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, a former world road race champion, ended up in sixth - 21 seconds behind - together with Athens silver medallist Judith Arndt of Germany.

French great Jeannie Longo, 49, who is competing in her seventh Olympics, was 33 seconds behind the winner.

The 126km race was run in appalling conditions, with heavy rain making the road treacherous in places.

606: DEBATE
Nicole Cooke crosses the line to win gold
ThanksSirAlex

Cooke, together with Italy's Guderzo, Johansson of Sweden, Christiane Soeder of Austria and Denmark's Linda Melanie Villumsen Serup, led the field going into the final 10km.

At the bottom of the final climb, Cooke seemed to drop away from the other four riders as they turned the wet and slippy corner.

But she put on the gas during the lung-bursting slope to the line and had enough in the tank to edge home first.

"All congratulations to Nicole for a fantastic victory," said Olympics minister Tessa Jowell.

"What you can't perhaps quite sense at home is just the torrential rain that was falling on Beijing - and despite those incredibly tough weather conditions, she won. So it's a wonderful victory and a huge lift for Team GB."

And Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe added: "This is a great start to the Beijing Olympics for Team GB and I have no doubt this medal will fire up the rest of the team to do their best in the next two weeks.

"Well done to Nicole Cooke - she has set us on our way."

Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, a former world road race champion, ended up in sixth - 21 seconds behind - together with Athens silver medallist Judith Arndt of Germany.

"Normally I'm good in the rain, but the problem was that it was really cold," said Vos, who was one of the pre-race favourites. "We expected warm weather."

French great Jeannie Longo, 49, competing in her seventh Olympics, finished 33 seconds behind the winner in 24th.

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Video - Cooke delighted with 'dream' gold




Cycling Sport medals table

Monday, 18 August 2008 15:37 UK
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze TOTAL

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see also
Cooke given new bike for Beijing
18 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cooke claims ninth British title
28 Jun 08 |  Cycling
Cooke clinches World Cup double
10 Sep 06 |  Cycling
Cooke crowned World Cup champion
03 Sep 06 |  Cycling
Cooke goes top of world rankings
02 Aug 06 |  Cycling
Cooke claims Grande Boucle title
02 Jul 06 |  Cycling
Cooke's medal hopes dashed
15 Aug 04 |  Olympics 2004
Giro win delights Cooke
11 Jul 04 |  Cycling
Cooke wins Giro
11 Jul 04 |  Cycling
Cooke claims World Cup
31 Aug 03 |  Cycling
Cooke takes road gold
03 Aug 02 |  Cycling
Beijing 2008
14 Feb 08 |  Olympics
Olympics blog
07 Aug 08 |  Olympics
The role of a sprint cyclist
03 May 08 |  Cycling


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