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Sharon Laws needed a stitch in her elbow after crashing on a descent around two-thirds of the way through today?s (Wednesday) fifth stage of the Tour de l?Aude.

But she will be fit to help Great Britain launch an offensive on Thursday?s critical stage.

Today Germany?s Ina Teutenberg (High Road) and Charlotte Becker (Nurnberger) attacked and gained a healthy lead on the stage that started and finished in Toulouges. The bunch almost caught them on the run-in but the pair held on to contest the finish, with Teutenberg winning.

Great Britain?s Nicole Cooke was 11th on the stage. Laws also finished in the bunch.

Laws' crashed happened when she was being taken up to the front by team-mate Jessica Allen.

They got up and rejoined the peloton after a long chase. Laws needed a stitch in an elbow wound after the finish but her injuries are not serious enough to put her place in the race in jeopardy. She?ll be on the start line tomorrow.

Thursday?s 117-kilometre stage from Rennes-les-Bains to Axat takes in three first-category climbs. The Col de Valmigère comes after just 14 kilometres, with the Col de la Fage at 54 kilometres and the Col du Paradis at 74 kilometres.

Great Britain?s directeur sportif Julian Winn said the stage would go a long way to deciding the destiny of the yellow jersey.

With Nicole Cooke fourth overall, 4-21 behind overall leader Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden, and Sharon Laws sixth at 4-56, the British team are in a strong position.

?We can either sit on fourth and sixth place overall and be happy with that or we can risk it. We?re going to risk it. Tomorrow is where we?re going to try to win the race,? said Winn.

But with more than four minutes standing between Cooke and Ljungskog, Winn knows they?ll have to attack early.

?I think we may have to hit it really early, on that first climb. Let?s get up there and get on with it right from the word go,? he added.

?Of course other teams may have the same idea and we can react to that, but we?ll be ready to race from the start, then after the first climb see what sort of damage has been done.?

With the team?s other climber, Emma Pooley, almost 30 minutes down overall but in decent form, and with Jessica Allen climbing well, Winn has options.

?We can use Emma and Jess early on and save Nicole and Sharon for the second and third climbs. That?s the great thing about having a team here that can take the racing on. We don?t have to sit and wait for other teams to make a move and then go with it, we can make it happen ourselves if we need to.

?If Nicole and Sharon have ambitions to win this race or get on the podium, we?ll have to do it tomorrow. We?ll stretch it out early and try to get as many as we can in the front half.?

1. Ina Teutenberg (Ger) High Road 112km in 2-56-51

2. Charlotte Becker (Ger) Nurnberger at 2sec

3. Monica Holler (Swe) Bigla at 4sec

4. Angela Brodtka (Ger) Team DSB Bank

5. Elke Gebhardt (Ger) Germany

11. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain

32. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain

48. Jessica Allen (GB) Great Britain

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

65. Helen Wyman (GB) Swift Racing at 28sec

69. Emma Pooley (GB) Great Britain at 4-45

72. Emma Davies-Jones (GB) Great Britain at 11-06

73. Catherine Hare (GB) Great Britain same time

95. Gabriella Day (GB) Swift Racing at 24-09

1. Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Menkini-Selle Italia in 12-39-48

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

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

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

5. Claudia Hausler (Ger) Nurnberger at 4-34

6. Sharon Laws (GB) Great Britain at 4-56


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

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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.