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Great Britain's Cooke takes gold in rainy road race

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - Nicole Cooke of Great Britain won the women's cycling road race on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Beijing Olympics, giving the Brits their first-ever medal in an Olympic road event.

Cooke won a sprint to the finish and ended the 126-kilometer race with a time of 3 hours, 32 minutes, 24 seconds. The gold medalist took off with 200 meters to go and narrowly defeated Sweden's Emma Johansson. Tatiana Guderzo of Italy was right there at the finish and took the bronze. All three riders completed the race with the same time.

The win also gave Great Britain its first medal of the 2008 Olympics.

"We did it," said Cooke. "It was perfect. It's a dream come true."

Cooke, winner of overall World Cup crowns in 2003 and 2006, finished fifth in the road race at the Athens Games. She had planned her training and racing schedule this season around trying to win gold in this event.

The top finisher from the United States was Kristin Armstrong, who came in 25th with a time of 3:33:07. Fellow American Amber Neben crossed the finish line 10 seconds later in 33rd place, while Christine Thorburn was 52nd with a time of 3:41:08.

Germany's Judith Arndt was considered one of the favorites for gold coming into this event, but finished a disappointing 41st. Arndt was the 2004 road race world champion and leads the 2008 World Cup series.

Sara Carrigan of Australia, the gold medalist in the Athens road race, finished in 38th place.

Just as was the case in Saturday's men's road race, the riders began at Yongdingmen Gate in Central Beijing and headed 78.8km north to the Great Wall. Once at China's famous landmark, the cyclists raced two laps on a 23.8km course that runs between the Badaling section of the Wall and Juyong Pass, where the finish line is located.

This year's road races marked the first time in Olympic history that the start area was in a different place than the finish line.

The hazardous conditions resulted in a few crashes Sunday, including one between Swiss rider Jennifer Hohl and Korea's Gu Sungeun, who collided at the 77th kilometer, just before reaching the Great Wall. Sungeun ended the race in 58th place, while Hohl did not finish.

08/10 06:45:15 ET