Sport in brief: Cooke seeks to end mixed season on high

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The Independent Online

Nicole Cooke will defend her World Championship title today in Mendrisio, Switzerland in the final race of her season.

The Welsh woman has had uneven form all season, with her 10th national road race victory coming this June, but few other major successes. Held not far from Cooke's adopted home town of Lugano, this year's 124-kilometre route is exceptionally hilly favouring the aggressive racing style and breakaways that are Cooke's speciality.

Cooke will be backed by an exceptionally strong GB team, including double World Cup winner Emma Pooley and the track World Champion Lizzie Armitstead. "We've got at least as good a squad as last year that supported Nicole to victory," Armitstead said yesterday. Meanwhile, Bradley Wiggins has hinted he may leave Garmin-Slipstream for Team Sky, the new British outfit. "The Tour de France changed everything," he said. "I have to make that step up."

Alasdair Fotheringham

Cook and Townend lead British challenge

Two British team members, Tina Cook and Oliver Townend, held the joint lead when the dressage phase of the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships was completed yesterday at Fontainebleau in France.

The home hero Nicolas Touzaint, holder of the European title since his victory in Italy two years ago, is a close third. The British, whose success in Italy gave them the team title for the seventh time in a row,lead from Germany and France going into today's cross-country phase, although the marks are desperately close, with fewer than five penalties separating the top 12 individuals. Cook, on the dual Olympic bronze medallist Miners Frolic, and Townend, on this year's Badminton winner Flint Curtis, know the pack is hard on their heels.

Genevieve Murphy

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