It was at Beijing and Varese in 2008 that Cooke won a gold medal and the rainbow-stripped jersey in the same year. She remains the only woman to achieve such success in road cycling. Since that year however, it hasn’t been easy. Team’s folding, injuries and subsequently a lack of results has made the last four years a challenging time for the 29-year-old.
Cooke believes that, after a year based around building for this one event in her home country, that her condition may be perfectly timed for the race which is held the day after the men’s Olympic road race. It will be on Sunday and after 140 kilometres that all will be revealed.
"I have not had the best form early in the season, but now I have reached the ideal condition to long for a good result - Cooke admits, 29 years-five victories this season. I know to be part of a national in this moment is among the strongest in international cycling and the Olympics in our home are another opportunity for us all to show what we're capable of," she told Tuttobiciweb.
Great Britain is pegging their hopes around the former Olympic champion but included in the four-person team is Elizabeth Armitstead - a rider who Cooke hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with, but insists they will ride as a united squad come race-day on Sunday. Team coach Chris Newton outlined the plans for how the women will tackle the race.
"We’ve got Nicole, former champion, to use. She will be given the rein of attacking and riding from an aggressive point of view, but was coy to give away too much. If that succeeds, we’re very happy for Nicole to go for glory and ride for that win," he told The News.
If the race comes down to a large bunch sprint it will be Armitstead who is given the protected role. She’ll have two of her AA Drink-Leontien.nl teammates alongside her with Emma Pooley and Lucy Martin. Martin is a key lead-out teammate for the British spriner. Armistead is confident in the team backing her, if she’s got the legs.
"I’ll focus on what I am best at and if I feel I’ve got a better chance of winning the race, I’ll voice my opinion. It doesn’t matter who the other person is. I’ve been successful because I’ve never been someone to shy away from taking responsibility," Armitstead told The Sun.
The women’s race will tackle two loops of the demanding and technical circuit before returning back to The Mall for the finish.