Cycling: Golden girl Cooke rules the world

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Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke made her already exceptional year an outstanding one yesterday when she out-powered her rivals for her first senior World Championships title.

In a similar finale to when Cooke won in the Beijing road-race six weeks ago the 25-year-old Welshwoman took the title when she proved to be the fastest of a small group of riders here in Varese, Italy, part of a break of five in the final lap as Cooke once again played a waiting game.

While her rivals wore themselves out with one attack after another Cooke responded only to the most dangerous of moves.

In a long final sprint against Marianne Vos of Holland, Cooke proved too strong and charged past for gold, German Judith Arndt was third.

"Beijing was a dream come true," Cooke said, "and because the Olympics were the big objective ofthe season, here I could start the race feeling very relaxed.

"We had a nice team plan, nothing too complicated, just to do what we could as the race developed. It wasn't a question of tactics, just doing my best and giving it everything possible."

After almost abandoning her career last winter because of knee injuries, Cooke is now the first woman ever to conquer the World Championships road-race and take Olympic gold in the same year.

She is also the first Briton to take a World road-race title since Mandy Jones nearly 30 years ago.