Nicole Cooke

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by limerickman, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Today Guardian newspaper :

    Road racing has never been an exact science and never will be, but the British cycling performance director Dave Brailsford and his team have been working on it and it showed yesterday. When Nicole Cooke sprinted across the line to claim Britain's first medal of these Olympic Games, it not only marked the pinnacle of the Welsh woman's eight-year international career but was also the culmination of a meticulous planning process going back more than a year.

    That planning went to one extreme that few cyclists have contemplated: a dress rehearsal on the road of the most likely scenario for a sprint finish, so that when Cooke arrived within sight of the line yesterday, she had in effect been through the sprint before. "We were trying to cover all options and we were hoping that exactly that would happen," said the women's road-team manager, Julian Winn.

    What happened leading to that sprint was the dream scenario evoked in team meetings: a relatively calm race until the field arrived at the two circuits up to the Badaling fortress and down the hill again, a strong attack from Cooke's team-mate Emma Pooley at the bell to sow confusion in the field and tire out the opposition, and Cooke using her strength and extensive single-day racing experience to execute the coup de grace. That is straight out of most tactical manuals; not so the dress rehearsal of the finish, which was another example of the British cycling team's determination to leave no stone unturned.

    "We did a lead-out on the hill on Thursday, the training day," said Winn, who was racing himself until only recently. "I led them out, then Emma picked up the tempo, Sharon Laws was on her wheel, so we had already rehearsed that finish. We knew the point, at 200 metres to go, where we wanted Nicole to go. We knew at what point the legs would be getting heavy."

    The only moment of doubt - among those watching at least - came when Cooke emerged from the final corner a few lengths behind her four companions. Like the other British riders she had started the race using lightweight tyres, which they opted not to change when the rain started. The downside was that she could not lean her bike as far as usual on the last bend.

    "We wanted to make sure she laid off coming into the final corner, but perhaps not that far," said Winn. "We were afraid someone might come down in front of her, so we told her to keep to the left. We knew she would chew them up after that."

    There was equal precision in the attack from Pooley that proved the springboard to Cooke's race-winning move. "The plan was Emma would go three kilometres from the turnstiles on the last lap," said Winn. "As soon as she came into the road she was to attack as hard as she could to put the Germans on the defensive. It worked. Emma's attack was fully committed.

    "Nicole could watch and wait because the other riders know what Emma can do on her own, so they were thinking, would she ride away or was she bluffing?

    "We felt the Germans were the most dangerous and they were put on the defensive. One was using up all her energy chasing and Trixi Worrack, their best rider, was flapping."

    Critically, the searing chase when the Germans responded to Pooley's attack left the big favourite, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, without a team-mate to assist her once Cooke had escaped just over the top of the climb.

    In every road race, there is a key moment when the winner has to make an instant commitment or opt to wait, and for Cooke that instant came when she joined the three women - Emma Johansson, Christiane Soeder and Linda Villumsen - who had just begun chasing the Italian Tatiana Guderzo after she escaped at the top of the climb. "I thought, 'Yes, we can stay away, these girls want to catch Guderzo so whatever happens we'll be going fast.' There was no decision, it was just, 'Yes, this is the time no.' "

    This first Olympic gold in a road race for the national lottery-funded cycling squad vindicates the creation in May 2007 of "Team Cooke", an informal group including Brailsford, the psychologist Steve Peters, Winn, the performance manager Shane Sutton, the women's endurance coach Dan Hunt and the cyclist's father Tony. "It was like a working group trying to find out the best-case scenarios for getting me to the Olympics," she explained. "It's a team effort but it's not just the riders, the staff and back-up as well."

    One aim was to ensure Cooke had the necessary support on the road, and here the team were helped by the rise of Pooley in 2007 and the discovery earlier this year of Sharon Laws, who was unlucky to crash twice here. Hence her glowing tributes afterwards to both team-mates.

    Another crucial element was Cooke's willingness to adopt a new structure to her season, over-riding her competitive instincts and opting out of short-term success in lesser races to save her mental and physical energy for this single day. "I had tried the other route, racing all season, but got to major championships without full energy in the tank so why do the same thing if it had been proven not to work?" she said. "But it was a high-risk strategy because I was trying it for the first time. I stuck to the plan and I believed in it."

    Chris Boardman, an individual pursuit gold medallist in 1992, once compared road racing to a lottery, in which a cyclist has only a few chances of taking a
    winning ticket. The ultimate accolades will rightly go to the gold medallist herself, who showed incisiveness - in itself a sign that physically she was completely on top of matters - and courage exactly when it mattered. However, as she would be the first to admit, "Team Cooke" made the Welsh rider's chances of pulling out that ticket as good as was humanly possible.
     
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  2. Runitout

    Runitout New Member

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    Hmmm.

    After the Rob Hayles' affair, I don't trust Brailsford as far as I can throw him. And from 12,000 miles, that isn't very far.

    I'm glad Cooke won, and I don't doubt she's better than the rest, clean or dirty.

    But I am not sure who to cheer for in the track cycling events this year.
     
  3. Jono L

    Jono L Well-Known Member

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    'Straya Mate.
     
  4. Drongo

    Drongo New Member

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    You little cynic, you.

    This is a man who introduced David Millar to a peer group that simply believes in doing things right. He was even having dinner with Millar when he was busted, so maybe he began the process earlier than one might imagine.

    I know that when a track programme is as spectacularly successful as Britain's has been, one might be a little suspicious, but just because one of its riders blows his Hct levels, cynics like you cry foul.

    These are nice people, they speak English and all (some of them); some of them are on teams with anti-doping programmes, and there's no possible way that any of them are on the juice.

    One must also remember that he's been funded to win Olympic medals, not finish fourth.

    ***********

    On a more serious note, I think the Hayles case really shows what fragile foundations cycling's rehabilitation is built on. If a Slipstream or High Road rider gets busted by external (not internal) controls, it will be a betrayal.

    Brailsford got a lot of public support from Millar for being the one to tun him around, and yet...
     
  5. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    Say what you like about the rest of the team, but if you're looking for a rider with a clean pedigree then Nicole's your girl. She's consistantly won at every level, including being a national senior champion at 16. She was thrashing the boys even at u-12 level. In interviews she's consistantly said that she doesn't have any injections at all, even legal stuff, and has always spoken out against drugs.
     
  6. thunder

    thunder New Member

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    did she speak out against Hayles?

    and chicks can beat the boys in the jnrs, they mature faster.
     
  7. Runitout

    Runitout New Member

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    Ricco was apparently doping at 15. No, I am not accusing Nicole Cooke of the same, but I am saying that success at a junior level is not an indication of cleanliness at elite level.

    You might have been doping as a junior; you might have been clean as a junior and needed to dope to 'step up' at elite level and keep winning; you might this, you might that.

    I think Nicole Cooke might be clean, and that is as high as I would put it. But Brailsford - no, I don't believe in him for a second. And as he runs the show, that sullies everything every British cyclist does, in my view.
     
  8. plectrum

    plectrum New Member

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    Woo Hoo ... UK cycling rocks :)
     
  9. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    Come on now, if you want to be cynical about Nicole, then you might as well do your research and look up her coach. Here, in the interest of getting everything out in the open:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/cycling/3736121.stm

    The thing is that Nicole has been performing at a world-class level well before starting to work with either Winn or Brailsford. In fact, she was a World Cup and Grand Tour winner, plus multiple junior WC before working with either. The general view on Nicole's palmares is that she would have already won far more if not for her 'work horse' tactics which have seen her worked over at the end of many races, and the heavy marking that she's suffered when riding alone for GB or Wales in previous major events. Plus some bad injuries.

    I only mention her junior (and earlier) results because many people would recognise a doper by sudden improvement in results. It's possible that Nicole has been doping her whole career like Ricco, but I would put it to you that schoolgirl racing in Wales is a different proposition to junior boys in Italy. The rewards aren't there in terms of money or fame to make it in any way worthwhile, and she was already a UK senior champion at 16.

    I've no idea what Nicole thought about Rob Hayles, because she isn't in the track set-up and wasn't involved at that World Championships so she wasn't asked her opinion.
     
  10. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    :D The thing is that I share the cynicism about the rest of the team, coming from nowhere to completely dominate on the track. But Cooke has always been dominant in women's road cycling for her entire career, before any of the present set-up was in place and before she worked with any of the current coaches. It's unfair to include her in the same general cynicism.
     
  11. Drongo

    Drongo New Member

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    In runitout's defence, I don't think he was including her in the 'general cynicism', or certainly not to the same degree, unless you count the general cynicism attaching to professional cyclists everywhere. I can't recall him saying 'I think (s)he's clean' before, so I'd say that re: Cooke he's as laudatory as he gets.

    The cynicism was in this comment, 'But I am not sure who to cheer for in the track cycling events this year'; ie doubt about Brailsford, not Cooke.

    The point about success when young is that, in and of itself, it isn't proof of bona fides. Valverde carved it up as a youngster: is he clean? Other information might sway you one way or another, though, together with their history of success.

    I agree that Cooke is as close as you could get to someone who ought to be clean--it'd be bloody disappointing were she not--whereas Ricco getting busted was hardly one out of the box.

    Speaking for myself, though, I refuse to 'believe' any more. Professional sportspeople are professional sportspeople, and without personal knowledge of the athlete involved (even then, sometimes) you just can't tell.
     
  12. Runitout

    Runitout New Member

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    Drongo - you hit it on the head. I have as much faith in Nicole Cooke as I have in any cyclist or elite sportsmen anywhere. It's not much, but it's more than I have for Rob Hayles or anyone else whose failed the haematocrit test. And due to Brailsford, it's more than I have in any of the UK track team.

    But I don't drink the kool-aid, either.

    Like you Drongo, I would never bet a cent on any cyclist being clean, because I generally find more enjoyable ways to lose my money.

    Rob of the og - the argument that someone must be clean because they won as a youth is just so much bullshit. Eg: Valverde, Ullrich. Just because you won clean doesn't mean you won't dope to keep winning.

    Yes - someone suddenly turning it on as a thirty year old raises one's suspicions - eg Riis, Mazzoleni, VandeVelde, Leipheimer, Jose Enrique Gutierrez. But again, it's no more than an indication. VandeVelde might be clean. I doubt Valverde is.

    But you can't tell. I guess anyway. Sometimes people's words mean a lot to me. When Freire calls Jesus Manzano a "raving lunatic" - and apologies to Mr Freire if my translator got it wrong - I think he has something to hide. When Armstrong chases Simeoni down and does the zipped-lip gesture, to the peloton, it's pretty clear where he stands. When Ekimov and Pozzato did what they did to Simeoni, I think that's clear, too. Why would you do or say those things if you were clean?

    By the same token, an athlete who claims to be clean has every reason to be doing so - so I don't take a declaration to that effect to have the same force.
     
  13. wicklow200

    wicklow200 New Member

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    Im not saying she is definitely clean but Cooke has been very loud in condemning doping.

    She told the story about walking away from her first pro team because they were injecting vitamins. She seems honest enough

    Have I mentioned she has never failed a dope test?
     
  14. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    I know that, but as I qualified it before: she was already massively dominant at a time when there would have been no benefit to doping - no prospect of making much/any money or achieving any fame. Whatever... the only point I was making is that she didn't suddenly become world class when she started working with Brailsford and Winn. The implication in the original post that I responded to was that Brailsford's involvement cast a shadow over her win. It is valid to respond to this by saying that she was winning regularly at the top level before any input from Brailsford.

    It's a bit like the fact that she's outspoken about being anti-doping: none of this (and certainly not the fact that I know she's a nice person!) will ever prove a negative.

    The good thing about this forum is that people tend to apply the 'looks like a duck, walks like a duck etc' theory to dopers. It's a sensible approach and has been vindicated time and time with Ricco, Armstrong, Mayo and so on and on and on. But the converse is that if someone doesn't 'look like a doper, walk like a doper etc' then they should be given the benefit of the doubt.
     
  15. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Agreed.

    Cooke didn't start winning because of Brailsford/Winn : she was winning races well before they became involved with her career.

    Incidentally is Winn - the same Julian Winn?
    He won the Ras over here in the late 1990's.
    Good rider he was too.
     
  16. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    Yep, same Winn. He rode the Giro in the early 00's as well. Now looks after the GB girls: there's a decent squad behind Cooke and Pooley, girls like Jessica Allen and Jo Rowsell that will be pushing for Olympic spots in 2012. Only problem is that the women's event has max squad of 3, so there's only one spot left as Nicole and Emma pick themselves.

    (as in link above, Winn's doping conviction was judged too minor to invoke the BOA's life-ban from the Olympics)
     
  17. Moller

    Moller New Member

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    Brailsford is a total fraud. A few years back he said that he would be very dissapointed if it was true Millar was working with Cecchini when he returned from his ban, but in actual fact Millar had been working with Cecchini with Brailsfords' knowledge for months.

    And how did Brailsford now that Rob Hayles wasn't a doper?, because he saw the tears in his eyes and heard distraught he was when he heard him talking to his girlfriend on the phone! Thats as pathetic a defence as I've ever heard from any dodgy european DS
     
  18. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    :D but but but... British people wouldn't cheat would they?? And Rob Hayles can't have doped because he's a nice guy :rolleyes:

    Anyway, talking about dodgy coaches, what about this guy... coach from the old DDR system who has now coached the winning team in his event in the last 10 consecutive Olympic Games:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%BCrgen_Gr%C3%B6bler
     
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