Nicole Cooke wins Giro d'Italia

Nicole Cooke sweeps away any worries about her form before the Olympics with a stunning victory in t

Nicole Cooke sweeps away any worries about her form before the Olympics with a stunning victory in t
Nicole Cooke became the first Briton to win one of the major tours when she led home the field in the Giro d'Italia yesterday (Sunday) in Milan. The British national champion finished 57 seconds clear of four-time Giro winner Fabiana Luperini in what was her first stage race since returning to racing after a knee operation. Cooke's victory was sealed on Saturday's stage based on a mountain circuit featuring the celebrated Madonna del Ghisallo chapel. The 21-year-old Welshwoman won the stage to take the leader's pink jersey from team-mate Diana Ziliute, who finished more than three minutes down. The Giro victory seals Cooke's status as one of the favourites for gold in both the road and time trial events at the Athens Olympics next month. She is also being considered as a possible entrant in the points race, which takes place on the Athens track the week after the road events. "This is simply incredible. This is the biggest women's stage race of the year," Cooke told the Guardian. "I'm definitely on course for the Olympics. I knew I was going well as I'd put in a huge block of training, but you never totally sure until you are actually racing. It has obviously paid off." A cycling prodigy, Cooke won the junior road title in 2000, then repeated that success the following year and added the time trial and mountain bike titles for good measure. Affected by a knee problem earlier this season, she only returned to competition at last month's British road championship at Celtic Manor near her home in Newport. Even after a long period off the bike, she still managed to take the national road title for the fourth time. Final overall standings 1 Nicole Cooke (GB) Safi Pasta 21.33.11 2 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Let's Go Finland 0.57 3 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Let's Go Finland 1.05 4 Mirjam Melchers (Hol) Farm Frites 1.28 5 Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Lit) Safi Pasta 2.20 6 Valentina Polkanova (Rus) Nobili 2.22 7 Diana Ziliute (Lit) Safi Pasta 2.51 8 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Rus) PMB 3.08 9 Olivia Gollan (Aus) Australia 3.25 10 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) Let's Go Finland 3.57
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