Beijing 2008 gold medallist announces retirement with swipe at UCI

Monday, 14 January 2013
By Duncan Mackay

Nicole Cooke with Beijing 2008 gold medalJanuary 14 - Britain's Nicole Cooke, the Beijing 2008 road race gold medallist, has announced her retirement and attacked the International Cycling Union (UCI) for failing to do enough to promote women's cycling and eradicate the problem of doping on the men's side of the sport.

But the 29-year-old Welshwoman, who also won the world road race title in 2008 and so became the first rider to take both major events in the same year, claimed that she was satisfied with what she had achieved.

"I am very happy with my career," she said.

"I have many, many happy memories over what has been my life's work since I was 12.

"I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win."

The 10-time British champion though, expressed her frustration at the darker side of the sport, which has been at fore in recent months following the lifetime ban handed out to seven-time Tour de France Lance Armstrong.

"I am so very fortunate to have been able to have won clean...I have been robbed by drug cheats, but I am fortunate, I am here before you with more in my basket than the 12-year-old [me] dreamed of," said Cooke. 

"But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean, people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing.

"When Lance cries on Oprah [Winfrey] later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward."

Cooke is angry that the time and effort spent on Armstrong by the UCI which has, she claimed, distracted from investment in women's cycling.

"Whilst they have been so engrossed trying to find receipts for the equipment they bought after Lance made donations to them, and suing Floyd Landis after he blew the whistle, and hold press conferences calling Landis a liar," she said.

"Whilst they have been busy with all these priorities, the women's road sport, that looked so promising in 2002 when I turned professional, has crumbled."

Cooke won Britain's first gold of the 2008 Olympic Games in a rainswept race by the Great Wall of China.

Nicole Cooke wins world title 2008Nicole Cooke capped a brilliant year in 2008 by adding the world title to the Olympic gold medal she had won in Beijing

Four years later in London she was also a member of the team that helped British rival Lizzie Armitstead win road race silver.

Cooke, by contrast, only finished in 31st place.

The build-up to London 2012 witnessed a major falling out between the two British cyclists, notably at the 2011 World Championships where Cook was accused of riding "for herself" rather than the team.

Following Cooke's announcement, Armitstead tweeted: "Congratulations to Nicole Cooke on a fantastic career!"

British Cycling President Brian Cookson also paid tribute to Cooke.

 "One of British Cycling's finest moments in recent years was her truly memorable win in the women's Olympic road race in Beijing," he said.

"There is no doubt that Nicole has been a pioneering force in women's cycling for the past decade.

"She inspired many youngsters to take up our sport. British Cycling owes a huge debt of gratitude to her and wish her all the best."

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November 2011: Armitstead and Cooke differences could put spoke in GB road cycle team's wheel
October 2010: Heartache for Cooke as she just misses medal
September 2008: Calls for honours for Cooke and Hoy
September 2008: Hot Cooke completes brilliant historic double victory
August 2008: Cooke wins Britain's first gold medal of Beijing Games
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