By Tony Cooke

18 year Old World Junior CyclingChampion Nicole Cooke defeats field that includes World Senior R.R. Champions of 2001, 2000 and 1999 and Multi Tour de France winner Luperini in 110km Road Race

Sunday 17/03/03
12th Troseo Citta Rosignano - Italy
Nicole Cooke made a proper start to her professional cycling life in the Grand manner today.  In the top class 12th Troseo Citta Rosignano the 4 times World Junior Champion from Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan defeated 107 of the cream of European Cycling including the current and last 2 Senior World Road Race Champions with a 3 second win. Over hilly terrain where, as ever in Continental Cycling, team tactics played a major part, Nicole struck at the end to score her first overseas senior win. "It was fantastic, my team looked after me really well and helped me no end." said the girl who in 1999 at 16 became the yongest ever winner of the Senior British title and yet was declared too young to go to the Olympics.  "It came down to the last 30 km and I was still fresh and ready to go.  There were two big hills left, one at 15km to go and another with just 3km so I knew it would be vital to be in the moves over those."  2000 World Champion, Zinada Starhuskia attacked on the first of these, with Nicole on her wheel, then Fabiana Luperini, 4 time Women's Tour of France winner moved across to them.  But the move did not stay away, as there were no Acce Due riders in the break.  The Acce Due team were looking to get a win for Zilute. last week's winner or Polikeviciute.  Then another move happened and 8 riders moved 5 seconds ahead with 1 lap remaining.  Nicole riding for Deia-Pragma-Colnago was present but vitally important was team mate Fanny Lecourtis.  On the last hill Lecourtis set it up for Nicole to attack.  Nicole went with Rasa Polikeviciute on her wheel.  This meant that it was the current World Junior and Senior Road Race Champions together.  Rasa was not working, Nicole made it harder and then attacked Rasa and dropped her, so with 2km to go. Nicole was just ahead of a splintering break.  However, on the run in 4 riders joined forces behind her.  On the descent a motorbike outrider crashed in front of Nicole and she had to swerve to miss it.  She was then caught by the 3 riders including 1999 World Champion Edita Pucinskaite. With 500m to go Edita attacked.  Nicole responded and then she attacked herself with 300m to go.  No one could go with her and she finished alone 3 seconds ahead at the line.  2nd was Noemi Cantele, team Acce Due and 3rd was Simona Parente, team Edilsalveno.  Nicole's time for the 110km race was 2 hours 55 min 30seconds.
"It was so different this week" said an elated Nicole who is just 18." Last week I was pulled out of my trade team by the lottery funded GB national team who had turned up in Italy with only 5 riders and they needed 6 riders to start.  This left me without the support of my Colnago trade team and the other GB girls were not able to help me at all.  Today, the GB team were not there and so my Trade Team could plan properly.  You cannot hope to ride alone in these big fields with teams all working as  units.  Today, I had Sommariba and Lecourtis put at my service.  They were superb.  If I missed a move they just rode me up to it with fantastic efforts on the front.  Last week I was having to counter every single move on my own.  You can only do it for so long."  The UCI rules allow National squads to pull riders out of trade teams.  Nicole is now looking forward to the World Cup, next weekend.  "This was a great result.  But it will make it very difficult for me next week as everyone will know what I can do and so they will assign several good riders to mark me."   



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