Baden Cooke's cycling dream team

2003 Tour de France green jersey with plenty of winners in his team

In a new run of features, Cyclingnews sits down with some of the sport's well-known personalities as they pick their cycling dream teams. This week, 2003 Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke selects his dream team of nine riders.

The rules:

  • Dream teams must feature nine riders, one of which can be the rider selecting the team, in which case they pick eight riders to join them.
  • The riders picked must have all ridden with the person picking the team. That means you can’t just pick the eight or nine best riders of a generation.

Sprinter: Baden Cooke

My role in my dream team would be the sprinter. With such a super strong team I think that we could be greedy and target the overall GC and also the sprint stages. This team would always be riding for the guy that would offer the best chance of winning. Egos would be left at the door. We would be often putting a lot of pressure on the other teams in the cross winds or in tough finishes. When I wasn't sprinting I would be helping put the three leaders in place for the climbs.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps

Leader: Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador was someone who really impressed me immensely. In team meetings for example, he would really take charge and go around the room, pointing out to each rider what he was expecting of him, what they did or didn't do right the day before. He really put a lot of pressure on his teammates, but in a good way. He was probably the best leader I've ridden for in the way he conducted himself. He was just a ferocious competitor, never say die and just hard. Despite all his talent, he's just hard.

I think he can just go to the next level, he's extremely impressive.

It certainly makes you go deeper when he's sitting on your wheel and you're drilling it for him. It makes you go that little bit further, that little bit deeper because it's probably going to blow everyone's doors off and put him in a better spot. It's really motivating.

Leader: Chris Froome

How could I leave Froome out? When I was on Barloworld with Froome he hadn't yet hit his stride, he was an unknown guy and I didn't really think he could become what he has become. Obviously he needed a lot of fine tuning, he had the stomach virus [bilharzia] that was holding him back but I think back to the things he did achieve with the bacteria, and the fact that he was about eight kilos heavier back then, just how big his motor is.

It's hard to say that Froome has a killer instinct but he does. Froome applies the pressure and keeps applying the pressure and then keeps applying the pressure where as Contador, you almost see him come to a standstill on a climb eyeballing his competitors then whacking it as hard as he can. He is more aggressive and the guy you want to be racing less than Froome. Chris can turn that cadence phenomenally and I think he has the biggest engine of anybody.

Leader: Bradley Wiggins

Brad and I were teammates on FDJ where he was very methodical and professional but I think it kept on snowballing and he just became more methodical and more professional. He did everything by the book in the end but it wasn't the case in the beginning. He had his flaws and weaknesses like everybody else though. It seems like when guys go to Sky they become more professional, learn how to train better and are given all the ways to fine-tune themselves.

On FDJ, it was a bit frosty with Brad and Marc Madiot as they didn't see eye to eye. Wiggo moved to France and was living in Nantes but was never there. He preferred going back to Manchester and the team was never really happy about that.

Wiggo is quite an amazing example in the way he can take all the weight off to win the Tour and then put all that weight back on and ride the track. When was the last time someone won the individual pursuit then went and won the Tour? And then he can go and win a madison world title as well!

Brad's incredible at doing impersonations of people. You'll sit at the dinner table with him and ask him to impersonate Jacky Durand and he'll do it. If he's met someone once, he can do an exact impersonation and they are quite unbelievable.

Brad's also quite a good singer. We were at a karaoke competition in Nice and he did 'Jumping Jack Flash' with a live band and received a standing ovation from the crowd to win the competition.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps
 

TT Specialist: Fabian Cancellara

I rode for Fabian when he did the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders double in 2010. He was probably going to win regardless of the job we did for him, even though we did a good one. He was just that strong. Fabian is a special guy who is very unique and self involved as most champions are.

We knew Fabian was going to do the double in 2010 as it was an unusual scenario when he didn't win in the classics, which was very motivating for us and made us ride really deep for him. It's a proud moment when you're riding on the front at Roubaix for him and just a cool experience. I don't think I've ever been more convinced of a teammate going into a race than Fabian with Roubaix to do the double.

He's also very professional and confident and when he's good, he knows he is going to win. Fabian can probably win bike races with only 80 per cent of his power, as he's a smart racer.

As leader, Contador rallies the troops more with people buying into it where as Cancellara is more worried about getting himself ready for the race. Contador knows he's ready and his priority is getting everybody else up to his level whereas Cancellara is focused on his own race and expects everybody to know what to do.

Opportunist: Philippe Gilbert

When he joined FDJ I think I was his first roommate so instantly I saw that he was a special rider and befriended him, giving him advice and helped him in the races. I was an established pro who'd won a lot of races but I could see in him a real genuine good guy who would also help me when ever he could and vice versa.

When I first met him, he didn't speak English so I would speak to him in French and he would refuse to answer in French because he wanted to learn English but I wanted to practise my French. He battled away with English and learned it pretty quickly in the end.

Most of the time at that stage he was helping me more than me him, but whenever there was a race that suited him, I was geeing him up and telling him he could win. He was really impressive back then and what he ended up achieving, it still blows me away with the races he's won.

Philippe is just a regular bloke, always has the time of day for a coffee and when he trains he doesn't do anything special or crazy. He rides hard at the bottom of the hill, harder at the end and sprints at the top of the hill. That's basically his training, he does a 10km climb and just gets faster, faster, faster and sprints at the top.

Compared to Wiggins who does so much specific training, it's surprising Gilbert only started motor pacing recently. He will just go out and ride hard for six hours sprinting at the top of hills. That's just what he does.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps

Classics rider: Peter Van Petegem

When I first joined the Mercury team, he was a big hitter and I idolised him. He was a cool customer with a relaxed demeanour. He was so laid back and I thought he was cool. He treated me really well in my early days and didn't look down on me as a neo-pro or anything. He didn't say a great deal but he always took the time to speak to me.

I was really hell bent on being a classics rider in the Flemish classics and I was always trying to learn when and where to be at the front in those races. It spun me out that he could ride last wheel and just be chatting away and having a laugh and I'd be at the front anticipating and then one kilometre before he needed to be at the front, he'd just go 'bang' and get to the front. He wouldn't be at the front one second too early. Always right time, right place and, obviously he knew the roads, but he had so much horsepower and wouldn't waste any energy.

The first race I ever rode in Belgium was Dwars door Vlaanderen. I'd never raced in Belgium before so I followed Van Petegem and won the race. In the post race interview I said 'I just followed Van Petegem all day'. I didn't know any hills, any roads but I hit the front group with one kilometre to go and won the race. I don't think he would have even known I was there.

Road Captain: Stuart O'Grady

Each of these guys I am choosing in a certain period of their career so this isn't Stuey as a 'champion' as this team already has too many. I am choosing him in his later years when he became a bit more of a diesel and a super road captain. He's the only guy I can think of who has the authority to get riders of this calibre to listen to him and work together

There are a lot of people who know how to ride a race with good tactics but it's implementing those tactics at 500 watts, that takes something else. It's so hard to think clearly when you have lactate falling out your nose.

It's not that Stuey had vastly different tactics than other top road captains, it's mainly just that he could implement them at warp speed. He is good tactically but it's his main skill to think things through under pressure that places him in a class of his own. In the races that he did together I was his lieutenant and we would work together, bouncing ideas off each other but he was in a league of his own.

Leadout man: Brad McGee

I simply wouldn't have won the green jersey without him so how can I leave him out? Honestly, Brad is the best lead out man probably ever because he can actually sprint. He could have been running top-ten in bunch sprints himself. He could do 750m on the front in the last kilometres, which no one else could do. He could push and shove as good or better than any sprinter.

If you have five guys it can be hard to stay together whereas when it was me and him, we were so versatile we could bang through gaps and he could pop put. He'd be worth two or three men and he would take great risks for me, which not may guys in position would do for someone else, and he was a GC rider himself as well.

At the Dauphine one year I lost Brad's wheel one time going through a gap and when he got to the finish he said to me 'If you lose my wheel, you better have fallen off or else I won't lead you out'. A few days later we were coming into the finish and I was holding his wheel with about a kilometre to go and I was dead set going to win. Laurent Brochard came on one side and some muppet on the other and they tried to sandwich me off his wheel. I held the wheel, I didn't move, didn't give an inch but I crashed and we all went down along with a whole lot of guys after us. I took skin off everywhere.

Limping in over I the finish line, I saw Brad and he asked 'what happened?' I replied 'You said if you don't hold the wheel you better be on the ground.' That day I achieved a couple of things, no one ever really messed with me again and he got this deep confidence that if he was going to deliver I was going to be there.

It gave him greater motivation to help me and I basically fell off to prove a point that you can't take the wheel off me. I didn't do it intentionally but I proved you can't get me off the wheel.

I won so many races because of Brad. He can ride at 60km/h in the seat so a lot of the time I just had to come off his wheel to win the race because he had everyone on the rivet.

Sports Director: Matt Wilson

Matt is my best mate and normally he would be in the team but with so many champions, there wasn't enough room. I think he's really found his place now being a director. We rode together on three different teams, FDJ, Unibet and Orica-GreenEdge, and he was the guy who came to teams with me and was the most loyal domestique. He was always confident in me, giving me 100% per cent.

In my final year I was lucky enough to have him in the car as a director which was a little bit strange but at the same time, really good experience, he knows how to motivate the guys, he's really passionate and understandings and firm with the young guys. For me, he's a super director and the ideal director for this team.

I was his best mate but he was never scared to tell me if I was doing something I should do.

He would have no problem getting a first or second directors role at many of the WorldTour teams out there.

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