Cycling: Cooke closing in on her third World Cup

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Nicole Cooke is close to winning her third World Cup after she came second in the Grand Prix de Plouay, in France, yesterday.

Noemi Cantele won the race, nearly half a minute ahead of the Welshwoman, who claimed 50 points. Cooke now goes into the final race of the series in Nuremberg leading by 80 points from Marianne Vos.

"It's not over yet but I was very happy," Cooke said. "I'm in a good position."

France's Thomas Voeckler surged away three kilometres from the finish to win the men's race. The Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd took second ahead of the ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca of Italy. The Giro d'Italia champion strengthened his lead in the standings and is on 213 points, ahead of the Spaniards Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. Valverde, who finished back in the peleton, was allowed to take part despite being banned from starting the forthcoming world championships for his possible implication in a doping investigation.

The race also marked the return of Astana after a month off following the suspensions for doping of their leading Kazakh riders Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin.

Yesterday at Santiago de Compostela, the Spaniard Oscar Freire took the lead in the Tour of Spain after winning stage two.

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