Nicole Cooke retires from cycling

Beijing Olympic champion decries lack of support for women's cycling

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Nicole Cooke has retired from cycling with immediate effect. The former Olympic and world road race champion announced her decision in a press conference in London on Monday afternoon.

During the press conference, Cooke expressed her satisfaction at winning “every race and more that I dreamt I could win” but decried the UCI’s failure to commit to developing women’s cycling during her 11-year professional career. In particular, Cooke pointed the finger at the UCI’s focus on the fall-out of the Lance Armstrong affair.

“While 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 said.

“My time in the sport has finished. I hope I will look on in 10 years’ time and see a vibrant and healthy women’s road scene. The key to that will be that the female athletes are treated with respect.”

Nicole Cooke celebrates in the rainbow jersey after winning the road world championship in 2008
Nicole cooke celebrates in the rainbow jersey after winning the road world championship in 2008:
AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Cooke won the Olympic and World Championship road race in 2008

Cooke also spoke of how she had to take four of her teams to court over the years to recoup unpaid wages and compared her situation with some figures involved in the Armstrong case.

“When Lance cries on Oprah 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 said. “Tyler Hamilton will make more money from a book describing how he cheated than I will make in all my years of honest labour.”

Cooke entered the elite ranks in 2002 after dominating on the world stage as a junior. She continued in that vein in her early years as a professional, winning the World Cup in 2003 and 2006, as well as the Giro Donne in 2004.

Cooke’s greatest season would come in 2008, however, when she took gold in the road race at the Beijing Olympics and then claimed a long overdue elite rainbow jersey at the world championships in Varese. She spent her final season in the peloton in 2012 in the colours of Faren-Honda.

Nicole Cooke en route to winning the Olympic road race in Beijing in 2008
Nicole cooke en route to winning the olympic road race in beijing in 2008:
AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Cooke at her best – winning the 2008 Olympic road race in Beijing