Nicole Cooke Wins at Plouay Again - World Cup Round 3
British rider Nicole Cooke, of Team Austra Gruodis - Safi, won her third World Cup Race of the year after outsprinting German Judith Arndt and Dutch rider Mirjam Melchers. After animating the race with a solo 35-km breakaway, RONA/Esker's French rider Magali Le Floc'h finished in the main field, 1 minute and 21 seconds behind the winner. Canadian Lyne Bessette, riding for the Canadian national team, finished 9th, 1 minute and two seconds behind Cooke.
After 35 kilometres with just a few attacks of no consequence, the race really started when the eternal Jeannie Longo attacked in the Côte de Lezot, one of the three climbs on the 14.15-km circuit. Longo created a break and went with seven riders in her wake: Trixi Worrack (Nurberger), Natalia Boyarskaya (Russie), Olga Slusareva (Russie), Giorgia Bronzini (Austra Gruodis) , Magali Le Floc'h (RONA/Esker), Lyne Bessette (Canada) et Chrystina Redden (Canada). The lead reached about 10 seconds, but the field reacted and reeled them in.
But as soon as the junction was completed, French rider Magali Le Floc'h (RONA/Esker) counter-attacked, and nobody took her wheel. All by herself, she managed to build a 1-minute lead and, cheered by her home crowd, stayed in front for more than 35 kilometres. When the peloton came back within 30 seconds of the RONA/Esker representative, Le Floc'h sat up, as she wanted to save energy made even more precious by a cold that she has had for a few days. "When you try nothing, nothing happens, said Le Floc'h after the race. I expected a few riders to break with me, or else the field to react and damage the rear of the field, but it didn't happen. I wound up alone in front. With the wind, by myself, there was no way that this could go to the end."
Another French national, Juliette Vandekerckhove, succeeded Le Floc'h at the front. Alone, her gap reached more than 30 seconds. But a chase group soon formed behind her, with horsepower to spare - Nicole Cooke was there, as were Judith Arndt, Mirjam Melcher, Joanna Somarriba, Lyne Bessette and four others. The group absorbed Vandekerckhove about 20 kilometres from the finish and the field never saw them again. Lyne Bessette remained active and well positioned in the break until, five kilometres from the finish, she suddenly stopped. Spectators assumed a mechanical problem. Wrongly. "I cramped really hard", she later explained. Suddenly. From the waist down. It was so bad I had to stop. I tried to start again, once twice, then I managed to finish. But I'm happy anyway, I didn't expect anything from this race, and I finish ninth after being in the good break; and the Canadian team worked well."
While Bessette was trying to finish her race, the other contenders were launching attack upon attack. Cooke kept control and finally won the sprint in front of Judith Arndt and Mirjam Melchers, with enough margin for her to raise her arms a good 10 metres before she crossed the line.
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