Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Young Aussie wins second-stage sprint


Australian riders Robbie Mc Ewen, left, Baden Cooke, center, winner of the second stage of the Tour de France between La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre and Sedan, and overall leader Bradley Mc Gee stand after the finish in Sedan on Monday.


Baden Cooke has probably been called a few choice names over his past two seasons riding in Europe's professional cycling ranks.

But the young Australian's impressive sprint victory on the Tour de France second stage here on Monday showed that he doesn't have to hit below the belt to get one over on his peers.

The 24-year-old from Benalla in Victoria has unsettled a few of the peloton's more weathered riders this season, earning himself a kamikaze tag on the mass sprints -- although he certainly won't be the first. On this year's Milan-San Remo one-day classic Cooke was reportedly the subject of Mario Cipollini's ire when he hustled the flamboyant Italian on one of the sprints to the line.

The 36-year-old sprinter was so incensed that he chased after Cooke to give him a slap -- but somehow Cipo, the current world champion, got mixed up and tried to slap Austrian Berhard Eiser instead.

Some you lose, some you win. But then Cooke was caught up in another incident during a sprint on the second stage of the Dauphine Libere in France this year where a mass crash was attributed to the feisty Australian.

The move prompted Frenchman Laurent Brochard of the AG2R team to hit out: "Cooke was trying to get through a gap that just didn't exist."

You can't criticise a guy for trying. On Monday Cooke's preparation for the finish was perfectly orchestrated by team-mate McGee.

The 27-year-old world individual pursuit champion, still wearing the yellow jersey he won in Saturday's prologue, put those skills to good use as he made repeated attacks before Cooke took over.

Holding off breakaways by first David Millar then Italian champion Paolo Bettini on an incline a few kilometres from the finish, McGee attacked himself, leading his pursuers a merry dance before peeling off with around 600m to the finish.

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