Baden Cooke battles on

Baden Cooke has been in good form in 2007, but nevertheless it's been a tough year thus far....

Baden Cooke has been in good form in 2007, but nevertheless it's been a tough year thus far. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to the Australian.

All going to plan, Baden Cooke would be spending this July chasing a second green jersey in the Tour de France, trying to add to the maillot vert he won in 2003. That's the ideal scenario. Instead, he'll be at home in Monaco, lamenting the absence of the Unibet.com team from the race and getting back on the bike after a bad injury.

Despite some good form, 2007 has been an exercise in frustration for Cooke. Things got off to a good start with victories on Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under and Stage 2 in the Etoile de Bessèges. But Unibet's exclusion from many big races put a dampener on the spring, with the team not being allowed to start top races Paris-Nice, Tirreno Adriatico, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d'Italia. Of the 13 ProTour events, they have been blocked from participating in six.

Officially, the reason is due to a complicated legal situation arising from legislation in some countries limiting advertising by gaming companies. But with the European Commission backing Unibet and saying that laws such as those found in France are both monopolistic and against EC regulations, many see the real reason as being the power struggle between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers.

Cooke is frustrated by this, and also by the bad crash he had in the recent Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. He had shown good form early in the race, finishing fourth on Stage 2 and then second the following day, but hopes that upward rise would continue and lead to a win were dashed on Stage 6 when he hit the deck. Hard.

"It was about four or five kilometres to go," Cooke told Cyclingnews, speaking by phone from his apartment in Monaco. "Everyone [from the team] was around me, helping me. It was a bit wet and we were doing about 80 kilometres per hour downhill. A couple of guys in front touched a wheel and a lot of guys then hit the brakes: as it was so slippery, they fell off. I tried to avoid it, going hard right, but they sort of dominoed across the road.

To read the full interview with Baden Cooke, click here.

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