Nicole Cooke finished 28th in Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and confessed to “disappointment overall” but she added that she was encouraged by the contribution made to the early part of the race by her British team-mates. Cooke is riding with the Great Britain national team this season after finding herself “in a sticky situation” when a possible late deal with a German team fell through in February.
On the eve of the season she needed a quick solution, and British Cycling stepped in. Though most of her new team-mates are under-23 riders, Cooke felt on Sunday that they proved they can offer support in the course of the coming season.
“In the early part of the race Katie Colclough and Emma Trott were really excelling themselves, really helping me a lot,” said Cooke. “They’ve got a lot of talent and the right attitude, and they are developing, that’s for sure. Having ridden with them at the end of last year I know they’re already well equipped to play a supporting role. It’ll be down to them now, and their determination.”
As for her deal with British Cycling, which is likely to take her through the entire season, Cooke said: “They’ve certainly helped me out of a sticky situation. What happened should never have happened. When someone signs a contract, and it’s a valid contract, it should be honoured. The fact that the team manager has had no reprimand is a scandal. But British Cycling really did get behind me when I was in a tricky situation. Simon [Cope, the under-23 women’s coach] has been very supportive. And I think that, as a team, we’ve got off to a good start.”
All of which means that Cooke is confident that, after a disappointing 2009, she can return to the World Cup podium soon - and perhaps to the top step at the world championships, which she also graced in 2008, just weeks after her triumph in Beijing. “The world’s are definitely my big goal for this year,” said Cooke. “We’ve got a programme that mixes World Cups with national level races, and sooner or later I want to be fighting for the podium and for wins.”
Next up for Cooke and her young Great Britain teammates is the Ronde Van Drenthe World Cup on Thursday.