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  Monday, 8 April, 2002, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Cooke earns second win
Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke's sprinting power proved crucial
Welsh cyclist Nicole Cooke held off a top-class field to win her second race of the season, in her first year at senior level, in Italy on Sunday.

The 18-year-old produced a thrilling sprint finish to take the 4th Memorial Pasquale de Carlo in Forli, continuing to repay the faith shown in her by Italian team Deia-Pragma-Colnago.

The race - run over 20 laps of a 4.3km course - was a tight affair with the majority of the starting field of 86 riders still in contention as the finish line approached.


I have no idea how far anyone was behind me
Nicole Cooke

Just as in her debut win last month, Cooke's sternest challenge came from the riders from the Acca Due O-Pasta Zara-Lorena Camicie team, including reigning world road race champion Rasa Polikeviciute.

The Lithuanian had support from team-mates Diana Ziliute and Chantal Beltman and was in control for much of the race.

"It was obvious that a few teams wanted to keep it all together for a bunch gallop," Cooke said.

"Every time somebody tried to form a break, Acce Due O or one of the other big teams just sat on the front and pulled it together."

Basque star Joane Somarriba-Arrola and several other Deia-Pragma-Colnago riders had opted to prepare in Spain rather than race at the weekend, leaving Cooke short of allies.

"Without a full team we could not dictate the tactics but, even so, I received excellent support from those of my team who were present," Cooke added.

Ecstatic

Several riders attempted to split the field as the race entered its final quarter - including Acce Due O's Nicole Brandli and Cooke herself - but each time the pack reeled the attacking riders back in.

With 500m to go, Cooke - sitting in fifth place - made her decisive move, leading the field into the last bend with Acce Due O riders in hot pursuit.

"I was on the front around the last bend," Cooke added. "I did not want to lead it out, but there was no choice. With just over 200m to go I wound it up and went for the line.

"Nobody came past, but I have no idea how far anyone was behind me, I was just concentrating on the line. The team were ecstatic after the finish."

Cooke will now return to her home in Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan for a well-earned rest, where the village will unviel a plaque celebrating her four junior world championship wins.

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Nicole Cooke
"It reinforces the point that I've made the transition to senior level"
See also:

24 Mar 02 |  Wales
Crashes hit Cooke's chances
18 Mar 02 |  Cycling
Cooke stuns cycling elite
21 Feb 02 |  Wales
Cooke starts Italy adventure
18 Oct 01 |  Wales
Cooke in demand
12 Oct 01 |  Other Sports
Cooke wins second world crown
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