Women's World Title is Italy's
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) catches Cooke on the line to win World Road Race Title
In one of the most thrilling finishes ever, Britain was denied a Gold medal in the final metres when Olympic Champion Nicole Cooke and Judith Arndt were caught by the peloton in the final 20 metres of the race. Leading the way across the line was Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini with Marriane Vos in second and Emma Johansson (Sweden) in third.
Bronzini sweeps past Nicole Cooke in the final metres to deny the Welsh rider the Gold medal. Rob Griffith/AP/Press Association Image
With Emma Pooley playing the faithful teammate and doing her best to control the race from the front, Cooke attacked twice in the last 10 kilometres, the second time on the descent of the final climb. It was here that she was joined by Arndt and the two headed for the finish looking likely victors. The chase though gathered momentum as the small chase group grew in size as riders rejoined the main group and with Canada doing a lot of the work to chase the leaders, the two out front started their sprint with the chasers breathing down their neck.
It was not early enough though for Cooke and Arndt and on the tough uphill climb to the line, Bronzini swept past not only Marriane Vos but Cooke and Arndt as well to win the title.
In bright sunshine which has helped give Australia the nickname the 'sunburnt country’, a field of 123 riders lined up in Geelong (Victoria) to contest the 2010 World Road Race Championship for Women over eight laps of this tough circuit. In amongst those 123 riders were seven from Great Britain lead by Olympic champion Nicole Cooke along with Emma Pooley who has already struck Gold at these championships, Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Colclough, Sharon Laws, Lucy Martin and Catherine Williamson.
This years race was the 50th anniversary of the event and a rider who has contested probably more than half of those is French legend Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (France) and she too was part of the field lining up on the start line. With so many riders and probably even more nerves, there was a crash early on which split the peloton for a short while but soon it was altogether again and one by one, riders on early doors duty were trying to get away.
It took a while, three laps, for an attack to stick and it was a rider from the USA, Katheryn Curi Mattis, who had the honour of being ‘allowed’ to lead the race alone as the favourites bided their time in the peloton. With riders from many of the World’s top cycling nations including Britain helping to maintain a reasonable tempo, the rider from the USA continued to increase her lead lap after lap.
It was a suicide mission however and with three laps to go, the gas was being turned up in the peloton and the lead for Katheryn Curi Mattis was dropping like a stone. The increase in pace saw the peloton reduced in numbers and where else but on one of the climbs, GB’s Emma Pooley went to work on reducing those numbers even more. Attacking, Pooley who turns 28 on Sunday, rode away from her rivals, something she has done many times in major races and in some cases, never been seen again. This time however, the favourites were not giving her any room and after Pooley had been the first to reach Katheryn Curi Mattis and end her race, Pooley her self was joined by a small select group of chasers.
The descent though saw many more regroup at the front but Pooley wasn’t finished and she had another dig, this time with an Italian rider for company. The strength of British women in the international peloton was certainly there for everyone to see with no less than four Brits in that lead group of around 40 riders. After Pooley’s efforts, Lizzie Armitstead marked out a move by Noemi Cantele of Italy and it was on for young and old now as attacks and counter attacks were being launched too quickly to keep note of. Italy were very active, Holland and Lithuania too.
As riders from many nations attacked, the Brits were on them and Pooley especially so playing the team player in a race where a sprint finish was looking ever more likely. Onto the first of the two big climbs for the final lap and GB had all four of their riders literally at the front of the race and with the slopes so steep, it was slow motion attacking as one rider would go, get caught and another would try her luck. Pooley had time to counter many of the moves, make one of her own and even go back to seemingly see if Nicole Cooke was okay or to talk tactics. The answer to whether Cooke was okay was a resounding yes and the Olympic champion made a classic move on the descent and racing alone, opened up a gap of a handful of seconds.
Reaching speeds of 75kph on the descent, Cooke managed to hold her lead until the next climb where she was caught by one of the German riders, Arndt, and more attacks followed with Pooley marking them out. Amazingly, after her efforts in the attack on the first climb, Cooke not only stayed with the leaders as they attacked the final climb, she also found the energy to go again and this time was joined by the talented German, Arndt. The two of them descended at speed and slowly opened up a gap on the small chasing group after the peloton of 30 or so exploded on the final climb. The leaders were into the final five kilometres by now and their lead was only seconds but worse was too come.
The small chase group where the favourites had lost their teammates on the climb was by now growing in size as riders rejoined on the descent and one of the first to join her team leader was one of the Canadians who buried herself to bring back Cooke and Arndt. She failed in that and with a kilometre to go, the two leaders still had a few seconds.
There was no time though on this tough uphill finish for the leaders to play games with each other and they seemed to realise that as they continued to work as the 500 metre marker approached. The leaders could by now feel the chasers breathing down their neck and Arndt was the first to launch her sprint and Cooke shortly after did likewise but it was too late as the fastest women sprinters in the world were by now on them and Vos, Bronzini and Johansson swept past just as Cooke got up to full speed. It was a second or so too late for the British rider with only metres to the line and the Italian Bronzini sprinted past Vos while Johansson had to switch from the barriers to the middle of the road to try and get past the other two.
It was Bronzini though who got to the line first ahead of Vos and Johansson and fourth for Cooke, perhaps just another nail in the coffin of a year where the Olympic champion has failed to get the rewards for all her efforts. To attack twice in 10k and still have the energy to respond in the sprint was an example the Welshwoman is still at the top of her game and her efforts in Geelong are sure to make her a favourite for the Commonwealth title.
Special mention too for Emma Pooley. An amazingly special ride from her to not only attack but also play the role of teammate shows how strong and close the British team is despite many a media effort to talk about splits. No medals for GB but plenty of kudos for the British riders who in 12 months time will be an even stronger force to reckon with at the Worlds in Denmark.
Big smiles from the rainbow jersey wearing Bronzini at the end of the 2010 World Road Race Championship for Women. L-R: Marianne Vos (Netherlands) with her Silver medal, Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) Gold medal winner and third, Emma Johansson (Sweden). Rob Griffith/AP/Press Association Images
Bronzini was of course very pleased with her race saying "I'm very, very happy, this victory is for my team, they are the best team. I started my sprint in the final metres, because I knew it was the only possibility to beat (Marianne) Vos who was faster… I thank Franco Ballerini and the team Italia. We are a very strong team. We are the best. “
Vos meanwhile was dissapointed with Silver yet again, "Oh yeah, three times second. I would prefer the Gold of course. Until the last lap everything was going quite well, but in the sprint I just had to go otherwise the other two with (Judith) Arndt (GER) and (Nicole) Cooke (GBR) would stay in front. It was just too long and Italy was stronger."
Another former champion, Johansson explained "It didn't feel like it was a fair sprint from Marianne [Vos], she really put me into the barriers and I really knocked my head on the public. I know there was more in my legs and I would have gone for Gold. I’m a little bit happy, but I’m also very disappointed because it’s not nice to not be able to sprint because someone is not holding their line.”
“I’m staying here in Australia for a little bit, more than a week. I’m going to Sydney for some holidays and then just have a nice rest back home in Norway. Then we’ll see. Next season is coming sooner than you think. “
Nicole Cooke: “Come the last lap, I knew I would be up there and in the race like we had today on this type of course, you just have to take your chance when it comes. I made my first effort and really went for it to see what would happen. I didn’t get away and was caught on the last climb but going over the top, I attacked again as I thought if I can get away, I can avoid the sprint. So I went for it and Arndt of Germany came with me. We got a gap and nailed it and went as hard as we could. We knew that was our best chance for both of us and we worked together and coming up the finish, couldn’t have given anymore, that was absolutely everything”.
“Just as I drew level with Judith, out of nowhere, the others came past and it was so incredibly tight but that is how it is with road racing. There are so many factors and you have to take your chance and give it everything which is exactly what I did. When I came over the line, I was feeling everything from angry to sad and looking back now, I can see I did a great ride, a gutsy ride. It was also the first year that GB have had strength in numbers at the front of the World road race. This has been a great World Championship for the girls. We have really pulled together, done the training, the preparation and rode as a team and it showed in the finale. We set our selves up for a winning move and nearly pulled it off. So it was a good team race.”
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 3:32:01
2. Marianne Vos (Netherlands)
3. Emma Johansson (Sweden)
4. Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)
5. Judith Arndt (Germany) @ 1 sec
6. Grace Verbeke (Belgium) @ 3 secs
7. Trixi Worrack (Germany)
8. Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)
9. Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain)
10. Carla Swart (South Africa)
16. Sharon Laws, Gbr
20. Emma Pooley, Gbr
29. Catherine Williamson, Gbr @1.42
Lucy Martin, Gbr
Katie Colclough, Gbr
123 starters/76 ranked at the finish