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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Boardman backs Cooke
Nicole Cooke in action
In 2003 Cooke was the first British rider to win a World Cup race
Chris Boardman believes Britain has a real medal prospect in the Olympic road race with Nicole Cooke.

The Welsh star has just returned from surgery but warmed up for Athens with victory in the British Championships.

"Nicole's coming back into form after an injury-plagued season and her win in the women's road race was outstanding - she absolutely annihilated everybody.

"She was having problems but seems to have got it back together just in the nick of time," Boardman told BBC Sport.

Boardman won Olympic gold on the track in 1992 and bronze in the road race time trial four years later.

He retired after the Sydney Olympics when he finished 11th in the time trial, a race in which compatriot David Millar finished 16th.

Millar, the time trial world champion, was touted for the title this time around but pulled out of the Olympics after admitting to taking the banned substance EPO.

Despite the absence of a man Boardman describes as a "very talented athlete", he feels Cooke can give the country something to celebrate - so long as she does not spread herself too thinly.

"Earlier this year I would have put the odds on her at 70-30 against because she was having so many problems," Boardman added.

"She has enough time to get into shape and it will be a close scrape but she's capable.

"She's a driven individual and it's not out of the question that she won't ride on the track, although it's a concern she doesn't end up doing too much and become a jack of all trades."

In the men's events Boardman expects the golds to go to riders from the Tour de France field, although he admits it is far too hard to predict a winner.

"When you ride for your country the teams are much, much smaller so you cannot control the race like a trade team," he added.

There are some genuine British gold medal prospects
Chris Boardman
"It will be interesting to watch because the tactics are so very, very different to what these guys do for their day job because they haven't got teams to call upon. There's just one or two individuals that can help them out a bit.

"It's not exactly a lottery, but if it was it is one played by 20-odd people who potentially have a winning ticket.

"The winner will be somebody who comes out of the Tour de France, they'll still have the form, perfect form, but it will be very difficult for the really big names.

"Everyone will be watching the likes of Jan Ullrich and it will be difficult for him to do anything. I'd put my money on the sprinters.

"The big names will have to concentrate on the time trial where they will have a much better chance, but Ullrich will be the man to watch."

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