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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Cooke criticises rivals
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke has hit out at her rivals for failing to help her chase down the winning breakaway in the women's Olympic road race.

Cooke became increasingly frustrated when other riders refused to take turns at the front of the pack pursuing eventual gold medallist Sara Carrigan.

"The moment I rue is that when the Australian attacked, the six others did nothing," said Cooke.

"Her attack wasn't a problem. But no one took up the chase for a long time."

The escape came at a time when Cooke had just had a spell leading the group, which uses up more energy than being tucked in behind.

Carrigan was followed by Germany's Judith Arndt, who went on to take the silver medal but was later fined 200 Swiss francs (88) for raising her middle finger in Carrigan's direction after losing out in the race to the line.

But Cooke's repeated complaints to her rivals went unheeded.

"Basically when the Australian girl went I'd just done a turn on the front," said Cooke, who went into the race as one of the favourites.

"It wasn't really up to me to go and chase it.

I really did put all my efforts into the road race and I'm very disappointed
Nicole Cooke

"There were five or six others who had been saving their legs, just following the wheels, and none of them went.

"We had two Australians and a Russian sprinter [bronze medallist Olga Slyusareva] who was not working at all.

"The Spanish rider [Joane Somarriba Arrola] did some work and the Dutch girl [Mirjam Melchers] wasn't that keen.

"There was an Australian girl with us who was doing absolutely nothing, and rightly so given that her team-mate was up the road. That contributed to the lack of a chase."

Cooke saw her chances of bronze recede two kilometres from the finish when she took a corner too fast on the final descent and hit a barrier.

She moved back into the shake-up for a podium place but was boxed in on the three-way sprint to the line as Slyusareva snatched bronze ahead of Australia's Oenone Wood.

"It [the crash] did affect me but I think by then I'd realised we were riding for the bronze and I guess my heart wasn't in it," said Cooke.

"When you come here for gold, it's not the same."

Cooke was in the leading bunch when Olympic champion Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel clipped the wheel of Somarriba Arrola and fell.

The Dutch rider was taken to hospital as a precaution, and could be a doubt for the defence of her time trial title on Wednesday.

That event gives 21-year-old Cooke a second medal chance, but the Welsh rider admitted her best hope for gold had passed her by.

"I really did put all my efforts into the road race and I'm very disappointed," she said.

"But I will definitely try to channel it into putting in some good effort on Wednesday."

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