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Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 16:50 UK

Cooke grabs first GB gold medal

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Video - Cooke wins first GB gold medal

Nicole Cooke claimed Britain's first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics in a thrilling women's cycling road race.

The Welsh rider timed her finish to perfection, powering off the front and away from Emma Johansson and Tatiana Guderzo in the sprint to the line.

Cooke, 25, was in a group of five that pulled away from the peloton in the final stretch to the finish.

She clocked a time of three hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds and is Britain's first Olympic medallist in this event.

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"We did it, it was perfect. It's a dream come true," said Cooke, who became the first Welsh person to win Olympic gold for 36 years.

Having finished a disappointing fifth at the Athens Olympics in 2004, her delight as she crossed the line first was obvious as she leapt off her bike and whooped with delight, racing to hug her team-mates.

"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."

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, who broke her leg six weeks ago but recovered in time to make the trip, finished in 35th.

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Video - Delighted Cooke gets gold medal

"We all knew that we were good riders, but the best chance that we had was to ride as a team," added Cooke, the 2002 Commonwealth Games road race champion and two-time winner of the World Cup series.

"Emma was going for her own 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."

Simon Clegg, Team GB's chef de mission, added: "Nicole has just secured Team GB's first medal - and what a medal. It's not only gold but it's Britain's 200th gold medal from the modern Olympic Games.

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

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

On the final, 9km climb on the second of two laps of the gruelling 23.8km Badaling loop, a number of attacks came but Guderzo was the first to hold off the peloton.

However a quartet containing Cooke, Johansson of Sweden, Christiane Soeder of Austria and and Denmark's Linda Melanie Villumsen Serup caught her up 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 finish and had enough in the tank to cross the line first.

"I knew (dropping back) was a risk - but the corner was very wet. I knew I felt strong, I knew there was a hill and no-one would take it on - but I could," she told BBC Sport.

"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."

Pre-race favourites Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, a former world road race champion, and Athens silver medallist Judith Arndt of Germany finished in a group of riders 21 seconds behind.

"Normally I'm good in the rain, but the problem was that it was really cold," said Vos. "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




see also
Cooke to make double Olympic bid
10 Aug 08 |  Olympics
In pictures: Gold medal celebrations
10 Aug 08 |  In Pictures
Team GB photos - day two
10 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Sanchez clinches road race gold
09 Aug 08 |  Cycling
Cooke given new bike for Beijing
18 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cooke happy with Olympic build-up
03 Jul 08 |  Olympics
Team GB for Beijing
21 Jul 08 |  Team GB
Cycling on the BBC
28 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Liam Killeen's mountain bike guide
02 Mar 06 |  Get Involved


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