Cooke "more ready" than ever to lead Saxo Bank-SunGard in Paris-Roubaix

Former Tour de France green jersey winner, Baden Cooke heads into tomorrow's Paris-Roubaix as Saxo Bank-SunGard's team leader.

The team says that following last week's victory by Nick Nuyens in the Tour of Flanders and earlier in Dwars door Vlaandern, the pressure is off and it's up to the tough 32-year-old Australian to see if he can crack it for his first race win since 2007.

"I'm a bit of a mixture of between [being] nervous, excited and really motivated," Cooke told SBS' Cycling Central this week.

"It's a race that since I was a little kid, I've watched and was really amazed by it. I've done it a few times now and know how unbelievably hard it is and how torturous it can be so this year I think I'm more ready than I ever have been before to be at the front."

Cooke was part of a key chase group mid-race during the Tour of Flanders following the Molenberg. He finished the race in 87th, 15:28 back on Nuyens.

The Australian has come close to the top spot on the podium on several occasions already this season nabbing fourth on the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve; fifth in the Dwars door Vlaandern and 10th in Gent-Wevelgem.

"Nick [Nuyens] pretty much saved our spring classic season with his wins in Dwars door Vlaandern and Ronde van Vlaandern so we enter Paris-Roubaix a little differently than usual," explained team sports director Tristan Hoffman.

"I put my biggest hopes into Baden [Cooke] who is feeling strong and he is really tough in these kind of races. He has been working so hard for his captains through the years and he deserves a chance to go on his own now. In our position we can afford gambling a bit. We're not going to be at the front of the pack closing gaps when we don't have any top candidates for the win. We're just going to follow and we have several good cards to play with Gustav [Larsson], Kasper [Klostergaard] and Mørkøv [Michael]."


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