Baden Cooke will be aiming for success on home soil once the Tour Down Under starts on January 18th. He's recently switched to the new Vacansoleil team after a deal with Rock Racing wasn't what it seemed. Cooke spoke exclusively to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about this change, his reaction to his 2008 season and his goals for the year ahead.
For a rider who won the green jersey at the age of 24, recent seasons have been a frustrating time for Baden Cooke. Taking a stage victory plus the best sprinter's award in the 2003 Tour de France should have been the start of a successful run in the sport; instead, he's spent several years simply trying to get back to that level.
Injury and team woes account for some of that frustration. He rode the 2008 Tour with Barloworld but crashed out on the twelfth stage of the race. Prior to that, Cooke missed out on the 2006 and 2007 editions; he was with Unibet during those seasons and while the team didn't make the cut in 2006 due to its size - it was a developing Professional Continental team then - it fully expected to be there the following year due to the ProTour license it had obtained. However, a bitter struggle between the UCI and ASO saw the team suffer, with the French organisers appearing to use Unibet as a pawn in those battles and blocking it from its events.
Cooke's team woes have continued more recently. He was enticed away from Barloworld by a large contract with Rock Racing, and was initially happy with the deal. According to Cooke, the American team had told its riders around the time of his signing that it would be taking out a Pro Continental license and riding the major European events in 2009. However, Michael Ball's team then withdrew its application and was set to have a far smaller programme on that continent. Financial problems made the situation even worse and, facing up to a six-month contract rather than the agreed two-year deal, the Australian rider jumped ship.
Read the full interview with the Australian