The start of Australian Baden Cooke's season will be about finding his power. After a bad luck with his team in 2007, the 29-year-old hopes that he can get over his leg numbness and back to his winning ways. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with Cooke while he was at the Barloworld's pre-season camp in Marina di Bibbona, Italy.
Baden Cooke started his career back in 2000 with Mercury, and has learned from both the good and bad experiences along the way. Though the team structure of Mercury was seen overall as a failure, it gave the then 21-year-old his start in cycling and opened the door to some eventual wins, including a stage win and the overall points competition in the 2003 Tour de France.
"Is it?" Cooke questioned when 2008 was noted has his ninth professional season. "It has been an adventure, I am living my dream. When I was 11 years old and started racing bikes this was my dream, and I feel very blessed. It is a very hard sport, and over the last years I have had some very hard times."
The hard times started with Mercury and continued last year with Unibet.com's ProTour-status struggles. "Mercury was still great for me, I had become pro – my dream. Even though the team went pear-shaped, I was on cloud nine and happy to be there. Even if the older guys were not happy because they wanted to be paid. I had good memories of being on that team, and there was great morale.
"In Unibet, I was not swimming in the river of denial, but I was just doing my thing," he continued on last year's season. "There were things I could not change, so I just concentrated on winning races, even if it was not racing in the Tour. Some of the races I wanted to target I did not get to do, and then I had the crash in [Volta a] Catalunya when I was really [in form].
"That was the only time I got down a bit; all the s**t was going on with Unibet, and I was sitting at home with rods in my back." Cooke voice returned to a positive tone, "However, I started racing again in Tour Région Wallonne at the end of July. I was ready to come back, and I love racing. Cycling has always been about winning, and secondary is the contracts and money – the contract will follow afterwards."