Cycling: Cooke scoops Britain's sole medal as Boonen bursts out of pack

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The Independent Online

Seven hundred metres from the finish in the shadow of the Bernabeu stadium here, the men's race was still led by a six-rider break containing major race favourites Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Paolo Bettini of Italy. But the six's chances were dashed by over-long manoeuvring for position allowing Boonen's group of some 30 riders to engulf them as the line loomed.

Boonen was then quickest to respond to a late lunge by Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, stomping on the pedals 200 metres from the line to take his first World Championships.

Cooke had been plagued by mid-season injuries, and she said securing silver behind German sprint specialist Regina Schleicher was a notable comeback. "Considering what a very fast rider Schleicher is, I can't be anything but satisfied," she said. "I was well-supported by my team-mates throughout the race, and after a difficult fourth lap, they got me back into contention."

Cooke kept a cool head throughout the race, gambling correctly on there being a sprint despite dangerous attacks by riders as well-respected as Spain's Joanne Somarriba and Switzerland's Nicole Brandli. The German team reeled in Brandli with a few kilometres to go, setting things up for a sprint, but Cooke stayed calm and opted for following Shleicher's back wheel.

Despite being shoulder-barged close to the finish, Cooke nonetheless hung on to her position. She finally came within inches of adding her first senior gold medal to the four titles she already has secured in junior World Championships - at 22 years-old, a more than encouraging result for the future.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'