By Shane Stokes
2007 victor Nicole Cooke will not take part in the Geelong World Cup race next month, preferring instead to build form for later in the spring.
The multiple British champion changed teams over the winter and is now part of the new Halfords Bikezone squad, which has very close links to British Cycling. Her team-mates are former Raleigh-Lifeforce rider Tanja Slater, Catherine Hare, Joanna Rowsell, Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Curtis, Emma Trott, Jessica Allen and Katie Colclough.
A representative from Halfords Bikezone told Cyclingnews that "the outline plans for early season include a good proportion of domestic races." She said that the team would then take part in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on March 24, the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 12 and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine on April 23. It is not clear if they will ride the Ronde van Drenthe on April 12.
Last year, Cooke won the Geelong Women's Tour with Raleigh Lifeforce and then went on to take the World Cup race in the same location, outsprinting Oenone Wood (T-Mobile Women) and Nikki Egyed (Australian National Team) to the line. The victory set her up for a strong campaign; she led the World Cup series for much of last season but ultimately lost out to the then-world champion Marianne Vos.
While Welsh rider has decided on a different approach to 2008, many of her former team-mates will begin their seasons in Australia. The Cervelo-Lifeforce team will do both the Geelong World Cup and the preceding Geelong Tour.
According to team manager Thomas Campana, the line-up for the big one day event will be decided closer to the race. "Every year we have our annual training camp in Melbourne from January-March," he told Cyclingnews. "We cannot say anything about the composition of the team at this moment, as we have ten riders available in Melbourne. One week before the [World Cup] race we will have internal selection races, and then our staff will decide."