Cooke shows form before Worlds

After missing recent World Cup races with knee trouble, Nicole Cooke gives an indication she's on he

After missing recent World Cup races with knee trouble, Nicole Cooke gives an indication she's on he

PIC AND WORDS BY WOMENSCYCLING.NET

Nicole Cooke showed that her knee injury that has forced her to miss races this season may be behind her and that she has good form for the World Championships later this month when she won Friday's fifth stage of the Holland Ladies Tour. After finishing second earlier in the week, Cooke created to an eight-second gap with just 3km to go and then charged away from the breakaway group she'd caught to take victory with a commanding display of speed.

The 124km Almelo to Almelo stage took place under increasingly hot and sunny conditions and was fast from the start. There were breaks and chases throughout and, if that weren't enough, there were several crashes too. British champion Cooke hit the tarmac twice and had to chase back onto the back of the break when she got caught behind a third.

Forced to chase a small group which jumped off the front of the bunch, the Buitenpoort-Flexpoint team spent the latter kilometres of the stage trying to close the gap. They were chasing to defend the overall race leader's jersey, worn by Tanja Hennes. It was their effort that brought Cooke close enough to the group to power across the gap in her brave move.

Three kilometres later and 75m from the finishing line, Cooke accelerated powerfully from the group and kept going. Looking over her shoulder, she obviously decided she'd opened up a safe gap with 30m to go, when she sat up and gave a victory salute which she maintained as she coasted over the line in front of Loes Gunnewijk (Vrieden van het Platteland) and Andrea Grimburg (Therme Skin Care). The bunch arrived six seconds later, and the sprint was taken by world champion Judith Arndt (Nrnberger).

Speaking afterwards, Cooke commented: "There were a couple of crashes today - one major one after about 45 minutes, I came off there, then after the break had gone, another one. I got caught behind that one, but I didn't come down. I chased back onto the break and just as I got on, some riders made contact with a (race) motorbike and I fell again too.

"With a lap to go, I went across the gap, I think the bunch didn't bother to chase me, they could have done and made it hard for me, but they didn't bother. I tried really hard and it paid off in the end."

When asked if she was happy with her form, happy with the recovery to her knee, she replied: "Yes I am. I'm not happy if I keep falling off, but I'm going well. I'm happy with my knee. I'm riding with it strapped as a precaution at the moment."

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