The gutsy Cooke timed her sprint finish to perfection
Britain's Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke won the women's road race title at the World Championships in Italy after a dramatic sprint finish.
Cooke overtook Marianne Vos of the Netherlands in a race for the line, with Germany's Judith Arndt third.
Welsh rider Cooke, with two bronze and one silver medal in previous World Championships, said: "I have always wanted the winner's rainbow jersey.
"At the finale I tried my best, it was instinct. It was a really hard race."
A group of 12 riders championed by American Kristin Armstrong had led for most of the eight-lap 86-mile (138.4 kilometre) race, with their advantage over the rest of the field fluctuating around the one-minute mark and at one point clearing two minutes.
The chasing pack lacked cohesion in their attempts to catch the leaders but GB's Emma Pooley launched a series of attacks off the front that helped to reduce the deficit.
And the breakaway 12, including Great Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead, were caught going into the final lap of the race and five riders - Cooke, Vos, Arndt, German Trixi Worrack and Sweden's Emma Johansson - were left to contest the medals for most of a thrilling final lap.
The riders launched a series of attacks and counter attacks, with German duo Arndt and Worrack launching one after another to try to unsettle the other three competitors.
Johansson, who won silver behind Cooke in Beijing, appeared to have caught the other four by surprise when she went off the front for a long-range finish with two kilometres remaining.
It looked for a while as though she would last the distance but was eventually caught by the impressive Vos.
I was set up perfectly by my team-mates. What more can you ask for?
The Dutch rider, who won the points race at the Olympics, looked a strong bet but Cooke dug deep to overhaul more than a bike length and cross the line first.
"I tried to get back on her wheel," added 25-year-old Cooke. "After a long race 100 metres can seem more like 200.
"When I started the race I was very relaxed because I'd already achieved my goal for the year which was to win the Olympics.
"But I was set up perfectly by my team-mates. What more can you ask for?"
Dutch rider Vos said: "I felt good in the last lap. I couldn't do any better, I couldn't go faster.
"Last year I started my sprint too late and this year I thought I had gotten it just right.
"When I looked back and saw Nicole coming on strong I knew I couldn't win. I'm still second, it's still a spot on the podium."
GB cycling supermo David Brailsford said: "Nicole has shown that she is the best around at the moment.
"It is brilliant for Nicole and the rest of the team. We really are a team to be reckoned with now."
The final race of the World Championships is Sunday's men's road race.
Women's road race result
1. Nicole Cooke (GB) 3hrs 42mins 11secs
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) at same time
3. Judith Arndt (Ger) at same time
4. Emma Johansson (Swe) +5 secs
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) +11secs
6. Diana Ziliute (Lit) +1:47"
7. Marta Vilajosana (Spa) at same time
8. Joanne Kiesanowski (NZ) at same time
9. Alex Wrubleski (Can) at same time
10. Yulia Martissova (Rus) at same time
28. Sharon Laws (GB) 3hrs 43mins 58secs
35. Emma Pooley (GB) +1:56
41. Elizabeth Armitstead (GB) +5.24
61. Jessica Allen (GB) +6.11