Nicole Cooke finished 12th in the opening prologue at the Tour de L?Aude today. The Welsh woman posted a time of five minutes and 12 seconds on the 3.9 kilometre course in Gruissan in the south of France

Cooke?s time placed her just ten seconds behind winner Katie Mactier of Australia. Mactier?s win was no surprise as the former world pursuit champion looked at home on the straightforward course.

Cooke had done no specific preparation for the short prologue and her time, and that of her team mates, left manager Julian Winn satisfied with the result. ?It was respectable by all the girls,? he said ?I don?t think it was a great surprise that Mactier was up there. Not a bad start.?

With a mountainous week of racing ahead of them, the Brits hadn?t focused on the short, flat individual effort that opened the race, although as Winn explained, it is a good indicator of form and condition. ?We don?t really have anyone who?d be up there for the prologue. Nicole could win but it?s not a target.?

Cooke?s team mates Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws both posted times of 5.17 seconds, just five seconds behind their more experienced team mate. It was an encouraging indicator of things to come, with the first climb of the race coming 72 kilometres in to tomorrow?s stage where the three British girls are expected to shine, ?We?re waiting for it to go uphill and then we?ll see how the land lies,? Winn said.

Tomorrow?s stage is dominated by the nine kilometre climb the Col de Salettes, a first category climb that gains almost a thousand metres. Although there is a long way to go from here to the finish and therefore unlikely to affect the overall result, it will, like today, give a good guide to who are the favourites for this ten-day race. ?If we can have all our girls at the front going over it, it will be a good omen I think,? said Winn.

Prologue: Gruissan-Gruissan, 3.9km time trial

1. Katie Mactier (Aus) Australian national team 5-02

2. Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Dutch national team at 1sec

3. Alison Powers (USA) USA national team at 2sec

4. Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Menikini-Selle Italia same time

5. Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Dutch national team at 3sec

Others

14. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain national team at 10sec

22. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain national team at 15sec

23. Emma Pooley (GB) Great Britain national team at 15sec

45. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Swift Racing at 22sec

58. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain national team at 27sec

77. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing at 34sec

84. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain national team at 38sec

101. Gabriella Day (GB) Swift Racing at 54sec

104. Leda Cox (GB) Great Britain national team at 1-00

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