Cooke a disappointed fifth in RR

There is no Olympic joy yet for Nicole Cooke who finishes fifth in the road race as Australia's Sara

There is no Olympic joy yet for Nicole Cooke who finishes fifth in the road race as Australia’s Sara

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Nicole Cooke’s Olympic road race gold medal hopes fizzled out in blisteringly hot Athens as Australia’s Sara Carrigan took the gold medal, easily winning a two-up sprint against Germany’s Judith Arndt. Cooke’s small group came in just behind these two, but the 21-year-old Welshwoman was beaten by Russia’s Olga Slyusareva in the sprint for bronze. The decisive moments came when a group of eight, including Cooke, went clear in the race’s latter stages. Australia had the advantage of two riders in the break, and Carrigan attacked in the knowledge that sprinter Oenone Wood offered an option if her attempt to get clear failed. Carrigan, though, was quickly joined by the strong-riding Arndt and the two drove hard together through the last lap knowing that they could decide the first two places between them. As Carrigan struggled to stay on Arndt’s wheel going up the climb for the final time, further back Cooke made a final attempt to get clear of the chasers and across to the leading pair. She did succeed in dropping a couple of riders from the group, but her chances of reaching the leading pair evaporated when she crashed on the descent with Lithuania’s Edita Pucinskaite. Holland’s Mirjam Melchers also went down. Cooke made a fantastic effort to get back up to Wood and Slyusareva, an effort that may cost her in the sprint for the bronze. Up ahead, Arndt led out the uphill sprint for the gold medal, but had no answer when Carrigan skipped past her and rode on, her face a picture of joy, to the Olympic title. The German was not quite so joyous. After Carrigan had sat on her wheel all the way up the final straight and then jumped her for the title, Arndt gestured at the disappearing Aussie’s back and later received an official reprimand for unsporting behaviour. Defending champion Leontien Van Moorsel’s race ended when she crashed heavily late on and was taken away on a stretcher, placing a huge question mark over her participation in the time trial and pursuit events still to come. 1 Sara Carrigan (Australia) 119km in 3.24.24 (34.87kph) 2 Judith Arndt (Germany) 0.07 3 Olga Slyusareva (Russia) 0.39 4 Oenone Wood (Australia) 5 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 6 Mirjam Melchers (Holland) 0.42 7 Joane Somarriba (Spain) 8 Kristin Armstrong (USA) 9 Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania) 0.46 10 Jeannie Longo (France) 0.59