Nicole Cooke (Halfords Bikehut) out-sprinted Emma Pooley (Specialized) to take her ninth national championship win this afternoon (Saturday, June 28) in Duncombe Park, Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

The 106km race sparked into life on first lap of the first, smaller circuit when Catherine Hare (Halfords Bikehut) attacked, “I knew I didn?t quite have the kick up that climb, and I knew the second time up there it would go, so my only chance of getting in the front group was to try and get a head start. It?s not the kind of course you want to be away on your own all day,” Hare said.

Subsequently, five riders bridged across to her – Cooke, Jessica Allen, Joanna Rowsell (all Halfords Bikehut), Rachel Heal (Tibco) and Pooley. As soon as this group formed, it was game over for the remainder of the field as the six worked well together. And with the Halfords Bikehut squad having four riders in the group, it was up to Heal and Pooley to try and do something even though the Halfords girls were instructed to race as individuals.

The six leaders stayed together until the start of the last lap, when Pooley launched an attack. Cooke reacted immediately, and the pair soon built up a gap on the other four. “It was mentally very tough because I knew that Nicole was going to attack,” Pooley explained afterwards. “So I thought, well, I want to attack before her. I didn?t want her to control the race like she always does.”

Coming into the finish, Cooke jumped away from Pooley – a move to which Pooley had no answer.

Nicole Cooke Emma Pooley national championships 2008

Cooke’s tally of nine national championship wins is now just four short of Beryl Burton’s all-time British record of 13, although Cooke admitted to not knowing what Burton’s tally was, “I’m happy to make my own path in cycling,” she said afterwards.

Joanna Rowsell finished third and took the under-23 title, her second national title in the last week.

Tomorrow (Sunday, June 29) is the national men’s road race championship for elite and under-23 riders. The riders will complete five laps of a 18.km circuit, followed by four laps of a 21.1km circuit – a total distance of 203km.

Nicole Cooke wins national championships 2008WHAT THEY SAID

Julian Winn, Halfords Bikehut and British women’s team directeur sportif
Winn said that there were no team orders in Saturday’s women’s national road race.

“I said I wanted to see them race today,” he said. “They didn’t have race radios. I wanted them to think for themselves and decide their own tactics.

“Obviously, we wanted to win the jersey but I didn’t want them to just ride round knowing they had the numbers.

“It was great to see Nicole and Emma coming to the finish together. I would say Emma was the strongest on the climbs but Nicole knows how to win. She rode a really clever race.

“I was really impressed with Catherine [Hare]. She started it all off by attacking and for her to be still there at the finish, fighting for a place on the podium, shows how well she rode.

“Then you have a 20-year-old and an 18-year old [Jo Rowsell and Jessica Allen] riding like that, making the break and trying to win the title. It was great to see.”

Joanna Rowsell

?I gave it my all but I couldn?t do anything about it. Emma and Nicole are class riders and Emma just accelerated on the climb and I didn?t have that little extra to get on. And then they went again. We were chasing to get them back and did our best, but it wasn?t going to happen: that became apparent after a few miles.?

women's podium national championships 2008champagne women's podium national championships 2008BRITISH ROAD RACE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS 2008 (WOMEN): RESULTS
1. Nicole Cooke (Halfords Bikehut) in 3-00-57
2. Emma Pooley (Specialized) same time
3. Joanna Rowsell (Halfords Bikehut) at 3-03
4. Jessica Allen (Halfords Bikehut)
5. Catherine Hare (Halfords Bikehut)
6. Rachel Heal (Tibco) all same time
7. Helen Wyman (Swift Racing) at 14-03
8. Lianne Thompson (Lune RCC)
9. Rachel Osborn (Newport Shropshire CC)
10. Leda Cox (unattached) all same time

UNDER-23 TOP THREE
1. Joanna Rowsell (Halfords Bikehut)
2. Jessica Allen (Halfords Bikehut)
3. Emma Trott (Halfords Bikehut)

COOKE’S NINE TITLES
1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. Another Welsh rider, Ceris Gilfillan won in 2000.

RELATED LINKS
British National Championships (women) photo gallery
National Championships gossip
The Big Preview: British National Championships
National Championships 2008 start lists