August 3/02 6:47 am - Commonwealth Games
Posted by Editoress on 08/3/02
Commonwealth Games - Road Races
The cycling events at the Commonwealth Games culminated on Saturday with the men's and women's road races. Stuart O'Grady led an Australian sweep in the men's race, while Nicole Cooke delighted the many Welsh fans with an unexpected victory in the women's race.
Held on the same course as the time trial, the women faced 93.6 kilometres (8 laps), with the men riding twice that distance. The narrow, twisting roads and the short, sharp climbs meant that the course was perfect for a breakaway to succeed.
The women's race began very slowly, partially due to the mist that reduced visibility to less then a hundred metres in places. Canada, with Lyne Bessette, Clara Hughes, Sue Palmer-Komar and Erin Carter, were co-favourites to the Australian team led by Anna Millward.
While Hughes tried some testing moves early in the race, it wasn't until the second half that successful break formed. Canada had Bessette and Palmer-Komar in the front group, while Australia had team leader Millward and Margaret Helmsley. Also in the group were Cooke, mountain biker Caroline Alexander (Scotland) and Roz Reekie of New Zealand. Helmsley and Palmer-Komar were the most aggressive, and did lead a break of four off the front group, from which Helmsley went solo with three laps remaining. The Australian looked good until she crashed hard with less then 2 laps remaining.
Millward had already been dropped, and the duo tried desperately to get back into contention. However, Palmer-Komar was having one of the best days of her career, and stayed at the front for over a lap, setting a high enough tempo to keep the Australians off the back.
In the final run into the finish, Alexander started the sprint, with Cooke coming by her in the final 200 metres to take the win. Sue Palmer-Komar managed to catch a fading Alexander shortly before the line, to take the silver.
The men's race had a huge range of abilities among the 87 competitors, ranging from Europe-based pros such as O'Grady, Baden Cooke and Cadel Evans to riders that had never raced the distance they were now facing.
The Australians were totally dominant in the race, chasing down an early break that gained as much as 2:40, before they were reeled in at the halfway point. As soon as they were caught, the Australians attacked as a team, shattering the field. When the dust settled, there were seven off the front, including the Australians, Canadian Eric Wohlberg and New Zealand's Glen Mitchell. Michael Barry (Canada) tried to bridge with Roger Hammond (and they were eventually successful), but by that point the Australian plan was working to perfection, with O'Grady soloing off with 3 laps remaining, and then Evans jumping away in the final kilometre and a half to take the silver, followed by Cooke out-kicking Mitchells for the finish.