Emma Pooley Fleche Wallonne 2008

Emma Pooley missed the time cut off for today?s seventh stage of the Tour de l?Aude ? but Great Britain team manager Julian Winn said it was nothing to be unduly concerned about.

The 25-year-old was off the back from the early stages of the 108-kilometre stage, which started and finished in Castelnaudray and was won by Kazakhstan?s Zulfia Zabirova who was part of a ten-rider break that got a big lead.

Dutch rider Irene Van den Broek was in the break and she leapt up to fourth overall, bumping Sharon Laws and Nicole Cooke down a place to fifth and sixth respectively. However, the Dutch rider is expected to fall back again tomorrow.

After a blistering start to the season, which saw Pooley win the Alfredo Binda World Cup race in March, it is a surprise she has not been climbing as well as her Great Britain team-mates Sharon Laws and Nicole Cooke.

But Winn is convinced it?s nothing more serious than a dip in form and that she has plenty of time to get back to her best before the Olympic Games in August.

Pooley lost almost 20 minutes on stage four, was off the back of the peloton again on stage five and yesterday, after working for the team on the first of three cols, finished in a group 23 minutes down.

?I am not entirely sure what?s wrong but I don?t think it?s anything more significant than a dip in form,? Winn said. ?A year ago Emma was just a girl in Switzerland who raced, now she?s in the top 10 in the world and that brings a lot of pressure. When you?re not up there at the front people ask why.

?She?s not at her best this week and she?s been on the back foot. It?s no secret that she struggles on the downhill and some of the descents this week have been hard. Today there were descents as technical as I?ve ever seen ? gravely and tight ? and it hasn?t helped her morale.

?She knows she?s got to get better at that part of her riding and she is getting better. She?s a tough character and she?s talented so she?ll get over this.

?It?s spun her out this week and today I wasn?t sure if she?d make the time cut [official results later confirmed she didn?t] but she didn?t want to pull out, she wanted to go on to the finish of the stage.?

Zabirova and nine others took a big lead on a twisty, rolling stage that was buffeted by strong winds. The Kazakh jumped away near the finish to win.

The other five Great Britain riders finished in the bunch 4-58 back.

?It was actually a really good day for the other girls,? Winn added. ?We put Jess [Allen] and Cath [Hare] on the front for a spell and they were helping bring the lead down.

?It?s pretty inspirational to see two young girls on the front like that, doing the work for the team and it really boosted Nicole [Cooke] and Sharon [Laws] ahead of tomorrow.

?Jess said to me today she felt tired and I said ?It?s quite normal to feel tired after eight days of racing when you?ve been on the front.? Don?t worry about it. In five years? time they?ll be riding for stage wins and the GC at this rate.?

Laws is fifth overall, Cooke sixth going into the weekend?s final two stages.

There are plenty of climbs and Winn?s aim is to at least get on the podium. ?We definitely want to light it up tomorrow,? he said.

1. Zulfia Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla in 2-55-45

2. Katherine Carroll (USA) USA at 31sec

3. Martine Bras (Ned) Netherlands same time

30. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain at 4-58

35. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain

36. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing

40. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain

44. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain

62. Leda Cox (GB) Great Britain all same time

83. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Swift Racing at 11-30

Outside time limit

92. Gabriela Day (GB) Swift Racing at 30-43

93. Emma Pooley (GB) Great Britain same time

1. Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Menikini-Selle Italia in 18-51-43

2. Judith Arndt (Ger) High Road at 3-39

3. Irene Van den Broek (Ned) AA Drink at 3-49

4. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Nurnberger at 3-55

5. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain at 4-03

6. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain at 4-21

35. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain at 37-51

53. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing at 46-45

63. Leda Cox (GB) Great Britain at 1-01-12

75. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain at 1-19-48

86. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Swift Racing at 1-42-46


Stage six: Laws second

Stage five: Teutenberg wins, Laws needs a stitch in elbow wound after crash

Stage four: Ljungskog wins, Brits hang tough

Stage three: Favourites bide their time

Stage two: Great Britain fifth in team time trial

Stage one: Cooke sprints to first win of the year

Prologue: Cooke top Brit


Stage details

Start list

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.