WORLD number one ranked Briton Nicole Cooke defended her UCI World Cup title in the best possible way, with an outstanding victory in the opening round of the 2007 Women?s UCI World Cup series in Geelong, Australia on Saturday.

Cooke (Raleigh- Lifeforce) out sprinted two Aussies, top sprinter Oenone Wood (T-Mobile), a former winner and Nikki Egyed (Australian National Team), in 3 hours, seven minutes 42 seconds for the 120-kilometre race.

Cooke, who began her season in sparkling form with overall victory in the three-day Geelong Tour two days before, was simply too good for the T-Mobile team. Their German sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, winner last year, was favourite after taking two stages of the Geelong Tour but she was left adrift by Cooke?s fierce race winning attacks on the final climb five kilometres from the finish and could only finish fourth.

T-Mobile conceded they were beaten fair and square by a superior rider. Australian time trial champion Carla Ryan set up an early break in the rain. It grew to 11 riders who made the running for several laps before T-Mobile, whose Linda Villusen was in the move, pulled them back as the roads dried out. Cooke?s Raleigh-Lifeforce were also represented in the break, by German Sarah Duster.

Wood then set off the attacks, but Cooke, who said she had to attack again and again to get clear, made the one that mattered. That finished off all but Wood who reacted to the uphill attack, and Egyed, a former world class triathlete. Egyed got across when teammate Kate Nichols made a huge effort on the front of the pack to help Egyed launch in pursuit.

Egyed flew across the gap and clung onto the wheels of Wood and Cooke to take a well deserved third. The main pack was led in by Teutenberg five seconds later.

Wood confessed she thought she had the beating of Cooke, but said: ?Obviously, she had better legs on the day.

Cooke said: ?This was one of my most fantastic wins of my career. As good as victories go, it was incredible.?