Nicole Cooke, the defending women's world road champion, admits that she does not have the same form as twelve months ago, when she completed the unique double of world road title and Olympic road race gold. The Welshwoman also said she would be prepared to play a supporting role when she lines up in Mendrisio in a seven-strong British team which also includes Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead.
"I would say I am not at the level of last year," said Cooke. "That is the case, but in terms of my preparation, I've done everything I could have done over the past two months to be as good as I can be, and to be ready for the big day. I'm going to give it my best and hope that's enough to be up there fighting for the big prize."
A virus in July interrupted her season, as did financial problems with the Vision 1 team she launched at the start of the year. After failing to land a major sponsor, the team was forced to cancel its racing programme, and Cooke confirmed that it has now been permanently disbanded. She added that she has a team for next season and will confirm her plans after the world championships.
Asked whether her team's woes had affected her, she said, "It certainly added an extra distraction to getting out training and preparing for races. But I think it was the right thing to do, to try and get a solid base and secure foundation for me and other British riders to perform from. I still think this year was the time to start something and give it a go."
The recession certainly didn't help her cause. "It was how it happened," she said. "You can't change anything."
Looking ahead to her title defence, Cooke said that the course would ordinarily suit her. "I think if you're strong and in good condition, yes [it would suit me], but you have to be ready for it."
The implication was that she might not be ready for it - in which case, one of her teammates could benefit from her help. Riding as part of what she says is Britain's strongest ever team is a considerable plus, she said "because we can get other teams guessing. We have different options to play, and that's the great thing about cycling, it's using what you can to your advantage. The team is something we can use.
"I'd be prepared to [play a team role], because of the support I got last year, which helped me achieve the highlight of my career so far," Cooke continued. "I'd be very happy to pay back the help they gave me. That's part of cycling, and in the race, as everyone knows, you've either got the legs or you haven't. I'll be the first one to say that, if I don't have the legs, we go to plan B or plan C."
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