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Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK

Hughes skates away with gold

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport Online in Rivington

Canadian speedskater Clara Hughes returned to cycling with a bang on Saturday at Rivington as she stormed to victory in the Commonwealth Games road time trial.

The 29-year-old, who won a speedskating bronze in the Winter Olympics this year in Salt Lake City, went out hard over the first lap of the 23.4km course.

Hughes led the halfway split by less than a second from defending champion Anna Millward.

"I think I went out a little too hard on the first lap"
Clara Hughes

But the Australian, who triumphed in Kuala Lumpur four years ago, had no answer as Hughes tightened the screw in the final lap to win in a time of 34 minutes 51.66 seconds - 9.11sec ahead.

"Today is a bit of a surprise because I was in Salt Lake City on skates five months ago," Hughes said, admitting that she had really pinned her hopes on the individual pursuit.

"My coach told me that if I'd be good in the individual pursuit then I'd be good in the time trial.

"My strategy was just to go as hard as I could and I think I went out a little too hard on the first lap - I really hurt on the second lap."

However, Hughes' cycling pedigree is not in doubt and the Winnipeg-born athlete won two bronze medals at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and a team time trial silver at the 1994 Commonwealths in Victoria.

Hughes was also delighted for compatriot Lynne Bessette, who took the bronze medal almost 10 seconds behind Millward.

Two more Australians, Margaret Hemsley and Sara Carrigan, were fourth and fifth, with New Zealander Kirsty Robb next and another Canadian, Susan Palmer-Komar, in seventh.

The top-placed British rider was England's Frances Newstead in eighth place, with Wales' Nicole Cooke trailing in a disappointing 10th and Scotland's Sally Ashbridge next.

Cooke, a four-time world junior champion, has made an impressive start to her senior career this year riding professionally for the Deia-Pragma-Colnago team and was expected to challenge for a medal.

But setting off in the second, faster group of riders, she had been caught by Bessette by the end of the first lap and fell further off the pace in the second.

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