Nicole Cooke world championships 2006

After opening her defence of the World Cup title in Australia, Britain's Nicole Cooke got her European campaign under way with victory in the 102-kilometre Grand Prix Costa Etrusca in Italy today.

Cooke, riding for the Raleigh-Lifeforce Creation team, crossed the line ten seconds clear of former Tour of Italy winner Fabiana Luperini, with Switzerland's Nicole Brandli a further three seconds back.

Cooke had attacked a leading group of eight riders on the final mountain climb.

"The weather was atrocious all day, especially in the mountains," she said after scoring her third win in the Etrusca race. "Having team-mates protecting me prior to the first split in the field, which came just before the 70km mark, was great."

RESULT.- GP Costa Etrusca (Italy).- NICOLE Cooke (Raleigh Lifeforce Creation) 102km in 2-58-16; 2, F. Luperini (Italy) at 10sec; 3, N. Brandli (Switz) at 13sec.