Cycling: Cooke coasts towards clinching World Cup

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The Independent Online

Fifth place in the Nürnberg grand prix yesterday saw Nicole Cooke clear the last obstacle on her way to becoming the first Briton to take overall victory in the World Cup series.

The Welsh rider, who has already won three races out of a possible nine, is now a towering 126 points ahead at the top of the classification - a virtually insurmountable advantage prior to the final race in Rotterdam next weekend.

In the lead overall since this spring's back-to-back victories in the Amstel Gold and Flêche Wallone races, Cooke had few problems yesterday in playing a defensive game as the bunch remained all together for virtually the entire 117-kilometre course based on a circuit snaking through the heart of old Nürnberg.

After her team-mate Diana Ziliute powered to first place in the final sprint and the Commonwealth Games medallist Rachel Heal, riding for the British national team, had placed ninth, Cooke explained that "winning last week in the round in France was the crunch moment because I'd come back from a knee injury and didn't know how good my form was going to be."

She added: "I didn't go crazy in the sprint today because I didn't want to mess up Diana's chances of winning, and throughout the race it was just a question of keeping an eye on my three closest rivals on the classification."

Despite only being at what she estimated as 80 per cent, Cooke and her Ausra-Groudis team easily closed down any threatening moves before the final rush for the line. For the 20-year-old, already four times a World Championships gold medallist, to become the youngest cyclist ever to take the Cup augurs well for the World's senior events this October in Canada, not to mention her Olympic ambitions next year.

"I don't see anyone achieving what I've done in the World Cup in quite a while." Cooke added. "Winning it is a good way of making history."

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly