Pooley power

The Block 8 Blog – direct from Oakley’s bunker base in Beijing

It was a case of Armstrong by name, Armstrong by nature as the USA’s Kristin A stormed to time trial gold. But for Procycling’s Ellis Bacon, it was silver medallist Emma Pooley who deserves a mention.

I don’t want to take anything away from Nicole Cooke and her fantastic gold medal for Britain in the road race, or Kristin Armstrong and her gold in the time trial, but by watching the race I’ve suddenly realised just how good Cooke’s team-mate Emma Pooley is.

Yes, I knew that she had won the second round of the World Cup, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, back in March, and her strong performance in the road race at Cooke’s service certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

But I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’d never considered her as a medal hopeful. Armstrong, yes, bronze medallist Karin Thürig, yes, world champ Hanka Kupfernagel, of course, and Cooke, well, I fancied her chances.

Then early-starter Pooley laid down her time, and was left watching from the hot seat as the favourites did their thing.

As the big-name riders failed first at the intermediate time check and then came across the finish line all adrift of Pocket-Rocket Pooley’s time, it quickly became clear that she’d done a ride, and then some.

Armstrong pulled it out of the bag on the second half of the course, perhaps helped by having a quality rider such as Australia’s Oenone Wood to chase down. But by the time Cooke virtually collapsed across the finish line, well adrift in 16th place, and with just an off the pace Christine Thorburn and Kupfernagel left to finish, Pooley had her medal sewn up.

As a Brit, I don’t want to harp on about how good we are, because this is a sport of nations. A sport where an Aussie can be a big fan of Holland’s Marianne Vos, and Belgians can form a fan club for the USA’s Levi Leipheimer.

But I will harp on about how good Great Britain have become, because it’s about time a hitherto minority sport and the hardworking athletes who propagate it get the recognition we, as fans, know it deserves.

And now, properly funded, they can reap the benefits: both on the track and, when it comes to the women at least, on the road, too. With a men’s road team set to burst onto the scene in 2010, things are looking rosy.

Cooke has been talked about for a long time and her talent merits that. But Pooley has now announced herself to the world on the biggest stage possible.

There’s clearly room in this British cycling programme for more than one chief.

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