Baden Cooke hangs up his wheels after fourteen year professional career
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baden Cooke hangs up his wheels after fourteen year professional career

by VeloNation Press at 5:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Former Tour de France Green Jersey winner to go into sports management

Baden CookeAccepting four weeks ago that his career was likely at an end after Orica GreenEdge decided not to extend his contract, Baden Cooke has now confirmed that he will walk away from the sport at the end of the season. The Australian rider thus brings the curtain down on what was a fourteen year career, but plans to remain in the sport as a rider’s agent.

“All I ever wanted in life was to race bikes professionally,” said Cooke, confirming that his time as a pro was done. “I never thought I would have so much success and win the races that I did. I am retiring from racing at a professional level but I will continue to train; don't be surprised to see me pop up at a local race.”

Now 35 years of age, he turned pro in 2000 with the Mercury team and spent two seasons there before moving across to Francaise des Jeux for four years. Early success included three stage wins in the 2000 Herald Sun Tour and two stages plus the points classification in the 2001 Tour de l’Avenir.

He had an upsurge in results in 2002 with a number of wins, including the overall classifications in the Herald Sun Tour and Paris-Corrèze, victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Tro Bro Léon and stages in the GP du Midi Libre and the Circuit des Mines. Other results included ninth in the world road race championships.

2003 was another standout year in his palmares, with his successes including a stage in the Tour de Suisse plus one in the Tour de France. More significantly, at 24 years of age he won the points classification, beating Robbie McEwen in the final sprint of the race. At that point it looked like Australian cycling had a new star, but unfortunately that result marked the clear peak of his Tour de France career and, in general, of his athletic palmares.

Cooke did have two relatively successful seasons at Unibet in 2006 and 2007, winning races such as the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, Halle – Ingooigem, the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and stages in the Course de la Paix, the Tour de Wallonie, the Tour Down Under and Etoile de Bessèges, yet things became quieter after that point.

He raced with more limited personal success with Vacansoleil, Team Saxo Bank and Orica GreenEdge. Rather than regularly winning races, he became a helper to others. However after two years with the Orica GreenEdge team, it took the decision to go with other riders for 2014, leaving him in an ultimately-unsuccessful bid to find another ride.

Speaking to the Advertiser at the end of October, he admitted that he was both “surprised and disappointed” not to be retained. “I had no inkling this could be my last year. I thought I'd do two more years and at my age I can still ride fast enough to do my job well.”

However he said that he wasn’t angry with team owner Gerry Ryan nor general manager Shayne Bannan, saying that both had helped him greatly during his career.

“I'll never forget that and I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have their help over the years.”

He indicated then that while he was waiting to hear back from a WorldTour team about a possible berth, that he was not optimistic it would materialise into something. “There are probably 50 guys going for the one spot,” he stated. “It's a really bad year for cycling with so many teams shutting down. There are hundreds of guys on the market with no job and I'm one of those guys.”

His plan now is to set up a sports management company based in Monaco, where he has lived for many years. He intends to represent mainly Australian riders and, given the number of them in the peloton, the venture could potentially work out very well.

“After 14 years racing at the highest level, I am moving on,” he said. “Having the honour of finishing my career with Australia's first own WorldTour team has been a dream, Racing surrounded by my best mates has been a phenomenal experience. I am very proud of my career and am ready for my next adventure. I feel blessed having had the life and career that I always dreamed of having since I was a little boy starting out at Benalla Cycling club with a BMX and a stack hat.”

He will be joined by Orica GreenEdge team-mates Matt Goss, Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews, Brett Lancaster and Peter Weening at a farewell critierum to be held in his hometown of Melbourne on December 15th. Former team-mates Brad McGee, Matt White, Henk Vogels and Matthew Wilson will also be there.

He has indicated that he will continue to race at times, albeit at a lower level than before.

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