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Nicole Denise Cooke, MBE (born 13 April 1983) is a Welshmarker professional road bicycle racer for the Vision1 Racing team, and is the current Olympic road race champion.

Early life

Cooke was born in Swanseamarker and grew up in Wick, Vale of Glamorganmarker. She attended Brynteg Comprehensive Schoolmarker in Bridgendmarker, in the year below Gavin Henson. She began cycling at 11, starting at Cardiff Ajax Cycling Club of which she is a life member. At 16 she won her first senior national title, becoming the youngest rider to take the senior women's title at the British National Road Race Championships. At 18 she became the youngest rider to win the senior women's title at the British National Cyclocross Championships. She won four UCI World Championship Junior titles, the road race in 2000 (Plouay, France), and the unique treble of mountain bike (Colorado, USA), time trial and road race (both Lisbon, Portugal) in 2001. As a result of this achievement she was awarded the 2001 Bidlake Memorial Prize for outstanding performance or contribution to British cycling.

International cycling career 2002–2007

Cooke turned professional for the Spanish-Italian Deia-Pragma-Colnago team at the start of the 2002 season basing herself in Trevisomarker where learned to speak Italian. In late 2002 she joined the Lithuanian-Italian team Acca-Due-O. A UCI regulation limiting team sizes meant the squad was split in two ahead of the 2003 season, with Cooke riding for the newly-formed Ausra Gruodis-Safi with many of the younger riders. The next season Nicole moved to the now re-named senior squad Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan, who she rode for in 2004 and 2005. At the end of 2005 she joined Swissmarker-based team Univega Pro-Cycling for two seasons, moving to Luganomarker in 2006 where she still lives.

In her first professional season in 2002 Cooke won a number of prestigious one day races in Italy and Holland, and also won the road race in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. She was voted runner-up in the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year. The season was also marked by the Deia-Pragma-Colnago team suffering financial problems, resulting in their failure to pay wages to Cooke and some of her colleagues. The troubles culminated when the team seized Cooke's racing bicycle ahead of the World Road Cycling Championships in October.

In 2003 Cooke won a number of important races including the La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the Amstel Gold, the GP de Plouay and the GP San Francisco. She was the 2003 UCI Women's Road World Cup champion, the youngest to win the competition and the first Briton. She placed third in the UCI World Road Race Championships. Cooke was voted BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year. A crash in June at the Tour du Grand Montréal where she hit a stationary police motorbike, required stitches in her left knee. Three weeks later she crashed again at the Giro de Trentino and suffered pain in her knee for the rest of the season.

Cooke endured a delayed start to the 2004 season. After a winter and spring of rehabilitation failed to cure the ongoing knee problem, Cooke underwent keyhole surgery in May. At the end of June in her competitive first race in 8 months, Cooke won her fifth British title. The following month Cooke won the Giro d'Italia Femminile, becoming the youngest ever winner and the first British cyclist, male or female, to win a Grand Tour. At the 2004 Summer Olympics she placed fifth in the women's road race and 19th in the road time trial.

In 2005 she again won La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, alongside the GP Wallonie, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Trofeo Citta di Rosignano. She came second in the UCI World Road Race Championships. In December 2005, preparing for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, she broke a collar-bone during the Manchester leg of the UCI Track World Cup; despite this, she won a bronze medal in the road race at the Games in March 2006.

2006 saw Cooke clear of injury and have her most successful season as a professional culminating on 1 August 2006 with her taking over as number 1 on the UCI's women's world road race rankings. On 3 September 2006 she secured the UCI Women's Road World Cup for a second time after winning three world cup races in the season - La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the Ladies Golden Hour and the Castilla y Leon World Cup Race. She also won the 2006 Grande Boucle, the women's Tour de France, by over 6 minutes. Other important wins included four stages and the overall title at Thüringen-Rundfahrt stage race and the Magali Pache Time Trial. She came third in the UCI World Road Race Championships.

In 2007, Cooke took the Geelong World Cup and the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the first two races on the 2007 UCI Women's Road World Cup. These early season wins led to her setting a new record in the UCI's women's world road race rankings for the gap between the first and second ranked cyclists. She also won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda for a second time, the Tour of Geelong, stage 2 of the GP Costa Etrusca and defended her Grande Boucle title.

A knee injury sustained prior to the last race of the 2007 World Cup, the Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt, prevented Cooke from fully defending her title with close challenger Marianne Vos winning the final race and taking the title. Cooke had led the series since the first race. The injury forced her to miss the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart. Cooke later admitted in an interview in 2008 that she had considered quitting the sport due to the injury.

2008: Olympic and World Success

Cooke joined Team Halfords Bikehut for 2008. Her first victory of 2008 was the Tour de l'Aude, taking the first stage and finishing fourth overall. On the 28 June, Cooke won her ninth national road race champion title, and her eighth consecutive win.

Cooke represented Great Britain at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the Women's Road Race where she won the gold on 10 August 2008, riding a boardman bike frame, the 200th gold for Great Britain in the Modern Olympic Games.

She became the first woman to become the road race World Champion and Olympic gold medalist in the same year. An eventful race in Varesemarker, Italy lasted 3 hours 42 minutes and 11 seconds, culminating in a sprint. She credited her team mates for their work, pulling back the 12-rider break with a few kilometres to go, putting Cooke back in contention.

Cooke's book, Cycle for life was published in October 2008 by Kyle Cathie (ISBN 9781856267564). The book combines her passion and enthusiasm for cycling, together with her knowledge, proficiency and experience. It is aimed at cyclists at all levels, with expert advice on everything from getting started to turning competitive, covering commuting, racing and riding with friends.

2009

Cooke was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours. She was awarded the Transworld Sport "Female Athlete of the Year" title in recognition of her achievements in 2008. She was also awarded the Sunday Times Sportswoman Of The Year award.

In June 2009 Cooke captured the Giro del Trentino title and won her national championship for the tenth time.

Palmarès

1999
1st British National Road Race Champs
(youngest ever winner)
2000
1st UCI Road Race World Champs, Junior, Plouay
2nd British National Cyclo-cross Champs
3rd UCI XC MTB World Champs, Junior, Lisbon
5th Grand Prix de Quebec
2001
1st UCI Road Race World Champs, Junior, Lisbon
1st UCI Time Trial World Champs, Junior, Lisbon
1st UCI XC MTB World Champs, Junior, Colorado
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st British National XC MTB Champs
1st British National Cyclo-cross Champs (youngest ever winner)
1st Best Young Rider, Grand Prix de Quebec
1st Mountains Jersey, Grand Prix de Quebec
2002
1st Road Race, Commonwealth Games, Manchestermarker
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st 12th Trofeo Citta di Rosignano (ITA)
1st 4th Memorial Pasquale de Carlo (ITA)
1st Mountains Jersey, Trofeo Banca Popolare (ITA)
1st Stage 2, Trofeo Banca Popolare (ITA)
1st Ronde van Westerbeek, Holland
1st Best Young Rider, Giro della Toscana
1st Best Young Rider, Giro del Trentino
3rd Veulta Castilla-y-Leon (ESP)
3rd Tour Midi Pyrenees (FRA)
:1st Stage 2, Tour Midi Pyrenees (FRA)
:1st Mountains Jersey, Tour Midi Pyrenees (FRA)
2003
1st Overall, UCI Women's Road World Cup
:1st Amstel Gold
:1st La Flèche Wallonne Féminine
:1st GP Plouay
1st GP San Francisco
1st Stage 5 Holland Ladies Tour
1st Mountains Jersey, Vuelta Castilla y Leon
1st Best Young Rider, Trofeo Banco Populare Alto Adige
1st Best Young Rider, Giro Della Toscana
1st Stage 3a, Giro Della Toscana
1st British National Road Race Champs
3rd UCI Road Race World Champs, Hamilton
2004
1st Giro d'Italia Femminine (Giro Donne)
:1st Stage 8
1st GP San Francisco/T Mobile International
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st Best Young Rider, Giro Della Toscana
1st Points Jersey, Giro Della Toscana
5th Road Race, Summer Olympics
19th Time Trial, Summer Olympics
2005
1st La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (BEL), UCI Women's Road World Cup
1st GP Wallonie (BEL)
1st Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Cittiglio (ITA)
1st 15th Trofeo Citta di Rosignano (ITA)
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st Stage 5, Holland Ladies Tour
1st Stage 1a, Giro Della Toscana
2nd UCI Road Race World Champs
2006
1st UCI world rankings
1st Overall, UCI Women's Road World Cup
:1st Castilla y Leon
:1st La Flèche Wallonne Féminine
:1st The Ladies Golden Hour
:2nd Open de Suède Vargarda
:2nd La Coupe du Monde Montréal
:3rd GP de Plouay
:4th Lowland Rotterdam Tour
:5th Berner-Rundfahrt
:5th Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt
:6th Ronde van Vlaanderen
:8th Geelong
1st Grande Boucle Feminine
:1st Stage 1
:1st Stage 2
1st Thuringen Rundfahrt
:1st Stage 2
:1st Stage 4a
:1st Stage 4b
:1st Stage 5
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st Magali Pache TT
1st Mountains Jersey, Tour of New Zealand
1st Best Young Rider, Giro del Trentino
3rd Road Race, Commonwealth Games, Melbournemarker
3rd UCI Road Race World Champs
2007
1st UCI world rankings
1st British National Road Race Champs
1st Grande Boucle Feminine
1st Tour Geelong
1st Tour Alfredo Binda
1st GP Costa Etrusca
2nd Overall, UCI Women's Road World Cup
:1st Ronde van Vlannderen
:1st Geelong
:2nd GP de Plouay
:2nd La Flèche Wallonne
:4th Berner-Rundfahrt
:5th La Coupe du Monde Montréal
:7th Ronde van Drenthe
:12th Open de Suède Vargarda
:34th Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt
4th Magali Pache TT
2008
1st Road Race, 2008 Olympic Games
11th Time Trial, 2008 Olympic Games
1st Road Race, UCI Road World Championships
1st British National Road Race Champs
4th Tour de l'Aude
:1st Stage 1
:10th Stage 4
:7th Stage 6
:3rd Stage 9
2009
4th Iurreta-Emakumeen Bira
:1st Stage 2
:1st Stage 3b
1st Giro del Trentino Alto Adige - Südtirol
:1st Stage 2
1st British National Road Race Champs


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