Cycling: Cooke suffers under weight of expectation and takes bronze

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The Independent Online

Nicole Cooke's role of favourite for the road race in cycling's World Championships turned sour for the Welshwoman on Saturday, who had to settle for a bronze medal in the 123-kilometre event.

Cooke first attempted to turn events her way two laps from the finish when she took off with Russian Olga Zabelinskaia on a 100kph descent on the 12.3-kilometre circuit here.

Shortly after that move was squashed, the 20-year-old missed out on a powerful charge by Jeannie Longo.

"There just wasn't enough collaboration behind for us to be able catch her for a long time," said Cooke, whose attempts to maintain a high pace only gained her limited collaboration from a group of five chasers. "I was surprised I didn't get any more help."

Already five times a gold medallist, Longo came within a whisker of taking her sixth in 17 years, but ran out of gas yards from the finishing line.

In the ensuing scramble, Cooke took bronze, Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog repeated her 2002 gold with Miriam Melchers taking silver.

A bold solo attack on the final climb earned Spain's Igor Astarloa the men's road race gold medal yesterday.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly