Former Tour de France green jersey winner, Baden Cooke (Orica GreenEdge), is without a contract for next year and reportedly on the verge of retirement. As one of many professional cyclists currently without employment for next year, Cooke's optimism is reportedly fading quickly.
"I think pretty much it's over," Cooke told News Limited. "It's a really bad year for cycling with so many teams shutting down, there are hundreds of guys on the market with no job and I'm one of those guys."
A professional since 2000, Cooke revealed he is talking with one WorldTour team, and is open to riding for a Pro-Continental team, but only if it pays the bills.
"I'm speaking with one WorldTour team at the moment but it's a very small chance, there are probably 50 guys going for the one spot," he said. "I had no inkling this could be my last year, I thought I'd do two more years and at my age I can still ride fast enough to do my job well."
Cooked added that although disappointed to possibly be ending his career earlier than first planned, he remained grateful for the support he has received to get him this far.
"It's a shame if I do have to go out not on my own terms but I'm not angry or anything, I've had a really good run," he explained. "I'm very close with Gerry Ryan the owner of the team and Shayne Bannan who have both helped me immensely during my career.
"I'll never forget that and I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have their help over the years."
The rider who won a stage and became just the second Australian ever to win the green jersey at the 2003 Tour de France said that that victory stood out as a special moment in his career.
"I've won 50-odd professional races and I'm proud of every one of those," he said. "Obviously the green jersey stands out as a life changing thing, the other ones are nice memories but the green jersey has changed my life really.
"That was a defining moment of my life."
Cooke's probably departure, alongside the sudden retirement of Stuart O'Grady -following the recent French Senate revelations- highlights a significant loss in experience amongst the Orica GreenEdge squad. The recent recruitment of Team Sky old hand Matt Hayman can be seen as being even more pertinent if Cooke is to be let go by the Australian team.
"Like someone said the other day, 'you've lost Stuey and you've lost Cookey, so you've lost 40 years of professional experience," Cooke explained. "My days of being a prolific winner are long gone, I still come close occasionally but my main role on the team was basically the same as Stuey's was.
"An experienced road captain with so much talent on the team, I would take those guys and put them in the right spot and talk them through what's happening and give them tactics. When Stuey and I were heading to races I was like his right-hand man to make decisions. He was the captain and I was there to bounce ideas off each other and when he wasn't there, that was my role."
With his outlook bleak, Cooke remained level-headed about his prospects, more than ready to move on should a lack of a contract necessitate it.
"If it's not happening then I need to move on to the next part of my life."
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