Final day of Cooke’s career tomorrow; Australian bids farewell to public with Melbourne criterium
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Final day of Cooke’s career tomorrow; Australian bids farewell to public with Melbourne criterium

by VeloNation Press at 11:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Goss, Matthews and Weening amongst the riders who will line out alongside departing Orica GreenEdge rider

Baden CookeBaden Cooke is on the verge of the final race of his professional career, with a farewell criterium taking place in St Kilda, Melbourne tomorrow and bringing down the curtain on what has been fourteen years in the pro peloton.

The Orica GreenEdge rider had hoped to do another year in the bunch but was unable to find the right contract after his current team indicated that it wouldn’t keep him on.

He announced his retirement towards the end of November, saying that he considered it time to move on to the next phase of his life.

Tomorrow’s Logie-Smith Lanyon SKCC Super Criterium will act as his farewell and he will be joined there by Orica GreenEdge team-mates Matt Goss, Michael Matthews, Jens Mouris, Brett Lancaster and Peter Weening.

Former team-mates Brad McGee, Matt White, Henk Vogels and Matthew Wilson are thought also likely to take part.

Cooke turned pro in 2000 with the Mercury team and spent two seasons there before moving across to Francaise des Jeux for four years. After that he competed with Unibet in 2006 and 2007, then spent time with Vacansoleil, Team Saxo Bank and Orica GreenEdge.

His top career success was a stage win plus the points classification in the 2003 Tour de France, with other victories including the overall classifications in the Herald Sun Tour and Paris-Corrèze, victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen, Tro Bro Léon, GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, Halle – Ingooigem and the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen.

He was a stage winner in the Tour de Suisse, Santos Tour Down Under, the Course de la Paix, the Tour de Wallonie, the Tour Down Under, Etoile de Bessèges, GP du Midi Libre and the Circuit des Mines.

Looking back, though, he believes the most crucial point of his career was in February 2000. He rode the Rapport Tour as an amateur, competing in a mixed National Team.

“There were about seven top level pro teams at the race, including Telekom with Jan Ullrich. I ended up riding away from a select group that included Ullrich to win a stage, and really from that moment my pro career was assured,” he said.

Of his professional years, he selects two main standout moments; one a high, the other a low. “Winning the Green Jersey in 2003 and then having Bettini knock me off as I was about to win a stage of the Giro, in 2005,” he said, the latter recollection one of a near miss.

Although the latter years of his career were more quiet than the early part, with the initial momentum not being maintained, he said that his time in the sport was definitely a plus.

“I have learnt a lot through cycling, although I am not sure I learnt any one life lesson in particular,” he said. “When I was younger and I was winning a lot, I always gave plenty of respect and gratitude to the guys helping me. I think that got me a long way; teammates were always willing to lay themselves on the line for me.

“On a personal level, I believe I won most of my biggest races through pure determination. I'd like to be remembered for that determination.

Next up for Cooke is that criterium; slightly longer-term, he intends to remain involved in the sport, albeit in a very different capacity.

“I am starting a rider management company in Monaco, where I am based. I will still be going to many races to keep in contact with riders and teams. I feel like I have a huge base of contacts in the sport that will be perfect for this line of work, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge.”

In the course of that work he will help riders get contracts, of course, but he will also share his knowledge and experience. He’s clear on what they can do to boost their performances.

“My advice for young riders is to get the best possible advice and to train smart. But the race must still be won on race day,” he explained. “You have to mentally prepare for that race and execute your plan. Many riders think it’s only about training your body, then on race day they don't seize the moment.”

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