By Anthony Tan
Another Aussie sprinter searching for success yesterday was Unibet.com's Baden Cooke, who is beginning to show glimpses of his 2003 form after finishing 17th in Paris-Roubaix last Sunday.
"Yeah, the form's been really good, though we haven't exactly pulled off the big jackpot we hoped for," Cooke said to Cyclingnews at the start of the Scheldeprijs in Antwerp's Grote Markt. "The legs have been really strong, but the classics have been a bit of a disappointment; a bit of bad luck, a few times a bit of bad judgment."
When asked if was content with his ride in Roubaix, the Benalla Bullet gave somewhat of a yes and no answer: "I punctured just before the Arenberg [Forest]; I was already a bit tired before we hit the Arenberg and because of that [puncture], I didn't have the perfect position, so I missed the front group. I think on another day, if I hadn't had punctured, I could of made the front group no problem and been going for a top ten or top five," he predicted.
Putting those confident last words into action when he and team-mate Jeremy Hunt made the race-winning break, the Unibet duo were unfortunately let down a little by their sprint in the end, with Hunt scraping home in ninth and Cooke finishing fourteenth. However, 'Cookie' says his finishing burst is an area he's yet to work on.
"No, I haven't worked on it, I've just been working on getting strong for the classics and haven't trained my sprint all year, so it's probably not the sharpest it's ever been. But after this period when I have some time off, that's when I'll sharpen up for the racing at the end of the month."
Somewhat of a rarity will be the absence of the 2003 Tour de France green jersey champion at the start in Strasbourg on July 1, or any of the other two Grand Tours for that matter. However, this was always going to be one of the risks in joining the a Pro Continental team like Unibet.com, placing their hopes on a wildcard spot, and Cooke knows there's really only one way to get back to where someone of his talent belongs.
"Just to try and pop off as many wins as possible," he grinned.