Emma Pooley missed the time cut off for today?s seventh stage of the Tour de l?Aude ? but Great Britain team manager Julian Winn said it was nothing to be unduly concerned about.

The 25-year-old was off the back from the early stages of the 108-kilometre stage, which started and finished in Castelnaudray and was won by Kazakhstan?s Zulfia Zabirova who was part of a ten-rider break that got a big lead.

Dutch rider Irene Van den Broek was in the break and she leapt up to fourth overall, bumping Sharon Laws and Nicole Cooke down a place to fifth and sixth respectively. However, the Dutch rider is expected to fall back again tomorrow.

After a blistering start to the season, which saw Pooley win the Alfredo Binda World Cup race in March, it is a surprise she has not been climbing as well as her Great Britain team-mates Sharon Laws and Nicole Cooke.

But Winn is convinced it?s nothing more serious than a dip in form and that she has plenty of time to get back to her best before the Olympic Games in August.

Pooley lost almost 20 minutes on stage four, was off the back of the peloton again on stage five and yesterday, after working for the team on the first of three cols, finished in a group 23 minutes down.

?I am not entirely sure what?s wrong but I don?t think it?s anything more significant than a dip in form,? Winn said. ?A year ago Emma was just a girl in Switzerland who raced, now she?s in the top 10 in the world and that brings a lot of pressure. When you?re not up there at the front people ask why.

?She?s not at her best this week and she?s been on the back foot. It?s no secret that she struggles on the downhill and some of the descents this week have been hard. Today there were descents as technical as I?ve ever seen ? gravely and tight ? and it hasn?t helped her morale.

?She knows she?s got to get better at that part of her riding and she is getting better. She?s a tough character and she?s talented so she?ll get over this.

?It?s spun her out this week and today I wasn?t sure if she?d make the time cut [official results later confirmed she didn?t] but she didn?t want to pull out, she wanted to go on to the finish of the stage.?

Zabirova and nine others took a big lead on a twisty, rolling stage that was buffeted by strong winds. The Kazakh jumped away near the finish to win.

The other five Great Britain riders finished in the bunch 4-58 back.

?It was actually a really good day for the other girls,? Winn added. ?We put Jess [Allen] and Cath [Hare] on the front for a spell and they were helping bring the lead down.

?It?s pretty inspirational to see two young girls on the front like that, doing the work for the team and it really boosted Nicole [Cooke] and Sharon [Laws] ahead of tomorrow.

?Jess said to me today she felt tired and I said ?It?s quite normal to feel tired after eight days of racing when you?ve been on the front.? Don?t worry about it. In five years? time they?ll be riding for stage wins and the GC at this rate.?

Laws is fifth overall, Cooke sixth going into the weekend?s final two stages.

There are plenty of climbs and Winn?s aim is to at least get on the podium. ?We definitely want to light it up tomorrow,? he said.

TOUR DE L?AUDE STAGE 7 RESULTS
1. Zulfia Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla in 2-55-45

2. Katherine Carroll (USA) USA at 31sec
3. Martine Bras (Ned) Netherlands same time
30. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain at 4-58
35. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain
36. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing
40. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain
44. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain
62. Leda Cox (GB) Great Britain all same time
83. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Swift Racing at 11-30
Outside time limit
92. Gabriela Day (GB) Swift Racing at 30-43
93. Emma Pooley (GB) Great Britain same time

OVERALL AFTER STAGE 7
1. Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Menikini-Selle Italia in 18-51-43

2. Judith Arndt (Ger) High Road at 3-39
3. Irene Van den Broek (Ned) AA Drink at 3-49
4. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Nurnberger at 3-55
5. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain at 4-03
6. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain at 4-21
35. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain at 37-51
53. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing at 46-45
63. Leda Cox (GB) Great Britain at 1-01-12
75. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain at 1-19-48
86. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Swift Racing at 1-42-46

RELATED LINKS
Stage six: Laws second
Stage five: Teutenberg wins, Laws needs a stitch in elbow wound after crash
Stage four: Ljungskog wins, Brits hang tough
Stage three: Favourites bide their time
Stage two: Great Britain fifth in team time trial
Stage one: Cooke sprints to first win of the year
Prologue: Cooke top Brit
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