Cooke faces challenging off season

Not long after hearing that he would have to find another employer for the 2008 season as his professional cycling team, Navigators, would not be continuing next year, Matt Cooke now faces yet another problem after his apartment was totally guttered by fire on October 26.

2007 was Cooke's rookie year in the professional peloton. The 28 year-old from Boulder, Colorado, spent time racing in Europe over the cobbles in Northern Europe, but his best results were achieved in his native America when he finished third in the San Dimas stage race.

A fire started in the 36-unit condominium shortly before dawn on Friday, and quickly tore through the entire building, leaving Cooke with nothing.

Cooke told the daily camera that he was in bed and nearly asleep when he smelled smoke this morning.

"I thought it was maybe lightning or fireworks, and then I said, 'Let's think about that,'" Cooke recalled. But he quickly decided otherwise, thinking to himself "I'm getting out of here."

Cooke initially thought that it was nothing more than a college students prank, only grabbing his his wallet and shoes as he left. He soon realised that it wasn't, when he was forced to feel his way along the wall to escape the blaze not being able to see his hands in front of his face.

The tragedy leaves the lightweight climber not only searching for a new employer, but also looking for a new place to live as well as the daunting task of replacing all of his belongings.

It is not yet known if there were any casualties in the blaze as due to the age of the building, it is unsafe for fire fighters to search through the rubble.

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