Nicole Cooke on the Kapelmuur

Portrait of a Hardwoman: Nicole Cooke

Portrait of a Hardwoman: Nicole Cooke

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Cycling is hard; I’m not leaking any trade secrets with that statement, but it feels good to say it anyway. No Cyclist avoids suffering, but of those who venture into our world, there are some who seek to limit it while others choose to embrace it. Then we have a handful of characters who consider playing Whack-a-Mole with the Man with the Hammer to be good sport, particularly when playing the part of Mole.

In the current climate, it’s impossible not to consider the impact doping has on our sport. I, for one, have happily watched professional bike racing and delighted in the spectacle for close to thirty years, aware to varying degrees that doping is part and parcel of that spectacle I enjoy so much. In the last decade, I’ve gone so far as to assume most – if not all – riders are doping; a regrettable situation but one which has done little to temper my enthusiasm for the sport. After all, when all the riders are doing it, then surely what we’re watching is a level playing field of willing participants who understand how the game is played. Cheaters cheating cheaters hardly seems like cheating.

It’s all beautifully romantic so long as all the riders are doping. This is not the case, however; there are those who are racing clean against dopers. These riders are truly being cheated out of a livelihood by a culture which not only turns a blind eye to cheating, but who ostracize those who don’t. These riders who refuse to dope have few voices and last week, the sport lost one of the most forward of these with the retirement of Nicole Cooke.

Nicole has been a force in Women’s Cycling since turning Pro in 2002. A powerful rouleur, she excelled in every terrain and in any race format, but was nigh unbeatable in uphill finishes, taking a total of three La Flèche Wallonne Féminine titles, each of which required such a large laying of The V that it brought her to collapse. I was aware of her as much as anyone can be with the state of the coverage of Women’s Cycling, but she became one of my favorite riders after reading a piece in Rouleur about my favorite hub manufacturer, Royce. In the article, Royce’s Cliff Polton described being at a trade show when a young girl better described as a ball of loosely-contained energy bounded up on his booth and started asking about bottom bracket axles and wondering aloud if he could help her achieve her goal of becoming the wolds most dominant female cyclist.

Given what I understand of her personality, I get the feeling it was more like executing a plan than achieving a goal.

Cooke raced at the top of her sport for thirteen years; she scaled the heights of achievement with wins in every major race on the calendar including the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen, La Fleche, the Giro d’Italia Femminile and Grand Boucle (women’s Tour de France), the Olympic Road Race, and the World Championship Road Race. What’s more, she accomplished it while remaining staunchly anti-doping to the point that she faced sackings for refusing doping products.

Anyone who is a fan of Cycling should read Nicole’s retirement statement – I could never do it justice here. My personal hopes for the Pharmstrong Legacy is that it yields a a blood letting in the UCI and that the energy it spends on covering up its own corruption goes instead into promoting Women’s Cycling.

I’m sad to see Nicole go. Yet, for a rider who thrived in the hardest conditions and who unyieldingly stuck to her principles, I find it very fitting that the final two wins of her career came in Stages V of the Giro Femminile and Energiewacht Tour, respectively. Bravo, Nicole.

Here is the finale of her last Giro stage win:

// La Vie Velominatus // Look Pro // Racing // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @minion

    Snow bound cabin fever suffering northern monkeys.

    Good point!  Time for a XC ski!

  2. @itburns Scots, gotta love ‘em…especially this one…

    @itburns gotta love the Scots….like this one…

  3. I think I just channelled Jacob Two-Two…

  4. @Tobin

    @itburns Scots, gotta love ‘em…especially this one…

    @itburns gotta love the Scots….like this one…

    Fuck where are the hidden cameras that follow me round to make this shit?

  5. @Tobin

    I think I just channelled Jacob Two-Two…

    Always funny to see other parents here.  I’m sure there are quite a few around here that don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. I do………..

  6. @scaler911

    @Tobin

    I think I just channelled Jacob Two-Two…

    Always funny to see other parents here. I’m sure there are quite a few around here that don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. I do………..

    IDK, but the two of y’all talking about a male figure in a tutu, well, kinda non-news…

  7. @minion for once i agree with you.

    @the Engine
    that Tour de San Luis is just a shitty little 2.1 race. TDU is a World Tour race – which is what Minion meant when he said Protour (because he is simple).

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    So far, the TDU has had one sprint finish (ok not that exciting, but they usually occur in stage races!), a stage with a devilish but short climb 6k from the finish and a wicked descent (oh yes, for you UK fucksticks, your boy Thomas raced out of his skin and there was a wickedly good crash to boot), and then a finish with pretty hard uphill sprint finish that saw a young gun (Slagter) get the jump on a couple of ok riders called Goss and Gilbert who came 2 and 3.

    What the fuck more do you want from a fucking bike race in January you ungrateful cunts?

    Maybe we should wait for that outstanding 2.1 race the Tour of Britain? Haven’t there been some fucking epic rides through drab scenery in the rain there? Or maybe we should wait for the Tour of Cali – which has a few interesting climbs but is most famous for the worst set of winners jerseys in the known world.

    Maybe you wish you had a ride at 6am this morning in weather of 28 degrees celsius. I did.

  8. @Buck Rogers is that the sort of reaction you were after?

  9. Read it and weep…have to say this is very rare especially the light winds…

  10. @Marcus

    @minion for once i agree with you.

    @the Engine
    that Tour de San Luis is just a shitty little 2.1 race. TDU is a World Tour race – which is what Minion meant when he said Protour (because he is simple).

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    So far, the TDU has had one sprint finish (ok not that exciting, but they usually occur in stage races!), a stage with a devilish but short climb 6k from the finish and a wicked descent (oh yes, for you UK fucksticks, your boy Thomas raced out of his skin and there was a wickedly good crash to boot), and then a finish with pretty hard uphill sprint finish that saw a young gun (Slagter) get the jump on a couple of ok riders called Goss and Gilbert who came 2 and 3.

    What the fuck more do you want from a fucking bike race in January you ungrateful cunts?

    Maybe we should wait for that outstanding 2.1 race the Tour of Britain? Haven’t there been some fucking epic rides through drab scenery in the rain there? Or maybe we should wait for the Tour of Cali – which has a few interesting climbs but is most famous for the worst set of winners jerseys in the known world.

    Maybe you wish you had a ride at 6am this morning in weather of 28 degrees celsius. I did.

    You seem a bit tense man. All that heat and shit burning to the ground fuckin’ with the sheep supply? Don’t lump us all in one basket. The TDU isn’t The Ronde (or Tirreno) but it’s racing! About f’n time I might add.

  11. @scaler911 if you are a North American parent with kids under 7 you will get this then….

  12. @gaswepass My bad…

  13. @Marcus I feel like the TDU critics don’t appreciate the serious Rule #9 conditions of South Australia in January. I suppose they could up the stakes by moving it to FNQ and making them race in ~36C 100% humidity with the occasional cyclone.

  14. @Marcus

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    (edited rants of a wanted sheep rapist)

    Maybe you wish you had a ride at 6am this morning in weather of 28 degrees celsius. I did.

    My snowcave was 27C today but had the advantage of being on the proper side of the equator and in a land that isn’t famous for animals that failed in every other climate.  Oh yeah, and large marsupials.

  15. Regarding supporting women’s teams I’m afraid individuals buying stuff isn’t going to make much difference. It might be more effective if you could each get a few hundred people to use their FB page or something like that, although just liking it doesn’t do much either unless they are active on it.

    Male cyclists are not Lulu-lemon’s target audience – I gather they are a women-specific sports clothing brand, so actually you probably don’t matter one bit to them unless part of their strategy is to target partners/husbands, but I doubt that.

    And this is the problem. It’s all about reaching audiences. Frank is half-right about return on investment but one is the objective and the other is the measurement – like saying it’s about the distance not the kilometres. Target audience is one of the main ways to measure your ROI.

    When Jonathan Vaughters says to Garmin “You will get ROI of $30 million by sponsoring this team” he is using ratings points to measure it. Obviously product sales are the ultimate strategic goal but targeting audiences is the tactical way to achieve this and they will perceive a causal link, otherwise how do they know what generated the sales.

    The ratings are actually referred to as the currency in an advertising market. An advertiser (and agency) plans a campaign which says “To achieve sales of A I need ratings of B in the target audiences of C, F and Q.” They buy airtime (or print space, or outdoor etc) based on this. The media owner doesn’t (usually) sell 100 ad spots, they sell 100 target ratings points – if that comes in 20 spots or 200 spots isn’t the main issue.

    The only difference is that sponsorship is earned not bought, but it is still measured the same way.

    And so this brings us back to the problem for women’s cycling. If you are a company targeting male fans you get everything you need from male events. The same people, in smaller numbers, watch the female events. OK the sponsorship is cheaper but the Reach (the number of people exposed for minimum time) is Duplicated. Yes you increase the Frequency but that has limited value if you’ve already reached your target. To succeed, women’s cycling  needs to develop incremental Unduplicated Reach i.e. find women to watch or men to watch differently to male cycling.

    That’s not impossible but we’re talking about a branding and marketing effort on a large and sophisticated scale here. Something like Formula 1. Even if the UCI wasn’t run by muppets it would be a tall order, and the doping scandals would have pulled the rug from under it anyway. They could  siphon off sponsor money by making women’s squads mandatory or re-allocating proxe moeny but then sponsors will complain they are not getting the ROI – vicious circle and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

  16. @Tobin

    now max and ruby I know from my kids. but feel free to flash the Assos woman at any time. and we still aren’t surprised that you and @scaler911 are talking about males in tutus. Now don’t get him and mcsqueak started on the cute kitty and bunny pic thing. the site just mite crash…

  17. @Marcus

    @minion for once i agree with you.

    Fuck! What next? Fat Pat admitting he took a massive bung from Lance and stepping down?

    @Marcus

    @Buck Rogers is that the sort of reaction you were after?

    This was exactly what I was after with my earlier post, the Aussie chip on the shoulder coming to the fore and getting nationalistic about it.

    @Marcus

    @the Engine

    Maybe we should wait for that outstanding 2.1 race the Tour of Britain? 

    I quite like the TDU and it is improving over previous years when it could have been described as a collection of sprint races run on consecutive days but there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with stages as short as 116km or bulking a stage out to a massive 135km by making the riders do the same bit six times in a row. The other thing that has no place is the amount of time the spend cutting to the tourist board footage of artisan markets and other twee shit while Phil rambles on about how many romantic times he and Paul have had there.

    Anyway, that’s all bye the bye as I’m just bitter about thought of anyone riding their bikes around in fine weather at the moment.

  18. @scaler911

    @Marcus

    @minion for once i agree with you.

    @the Engine
    that Tour de San Luis is just a shitty little 2.1 race. TDU is a World Tour race – which is what Minion meant when he said Protour (because he is simple).

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    So far, the TDU has had one sprint finish (ok not that exciting, but they usually occur in stage races!), a stage with a devilish but short climb 6k from the finish and a wicked descent (oh yes, for you UK fucksticks, your boy Thomas raced out of his skin and there was a wickedly good crash to boot), and then a finish with pretty hard uphill sprint finish that saw a young gun (Slagter) get the jump on a couple of ok riders called Goss and Gilbert who came 2 and 3.

    What the fuck more do you want from a fucking bike race in January you ungrateful cunts?

    Maybe we should wait for that outstanding 2.1 race the Tour of Britain? Haven’t there been some fucking epic rides through drab scenery in the rain there? Or maybe we should wait for the Tour of Cali – which has a few interesting climbs but is most famous for the worst set of winners jerseys in the known world.

    Maybe you wish you had a ride at 6am this morning in weather of 28 degrees celsius. I did.

    You seem a bit tense man. All that heat and shit burning to the ground fuckin’ with the sheep supply? Don’t lump us all in one basket. The TDU isn’t The Ronde (or Tirreno) but it’s racing! About f’n time I might add.

    Now that I’ve lived in Straya I’ve come to appreciate Marcus’ cuntbag eloquence a lot more. You meet people on the street all the time who talk like this (since I live in Canberra they’re called politicians) without the careful reasoning or the  citation of an occasional fact. While Marcus may have all the charm of a single, inbred  4 toed dingo farmer who last saw a woman in the 1960s, and a bar of soap in the 1950s, I have to concede that he may occasionally have a point.

  19. @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

  20. @Marcus

    @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

    You lot use cunt in the same way that you use mate, without the benefit of pronunciation it can be hard to tell whether its a term of endearment or an insult.

    Don’t worry though, I managed to make it through four years of living in Australia without making any friends so I don’t see why I should let my guard down now.

  21. @Marcus

    @Buck Rogers is that the sort of reaction you were after?

    Fuck yeah!  Now that’s how we pass the time until the real foookin racing begins, not this loser amateur shit that they try to fool us with since we have been without a race for three months!

    When’s MSR again?

  22. Don’t know where else to put this, but it’s worth a few moments of your time. Nice pr or the truth? You choose. Love the initiative of getting into Euro cycling though. Methinks beneath that placid exterior is someone willing top give Clenbutador a real test. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/jan/25/chris-froome-sky-tour-de-france

  23. @Chris

    @Marcus

    @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

    You lot use cunt in the same way that you use mate, without the benefit of pronunciation it can be hard to tell whether its a term of endearment or an insult.

    Don’t worry though, I managed to make it through four years of living in Australia without making any friends so I don’t see why I should let my guard down now.

    ha ha, yes, in Scotland they use the C word as an adjective too, as in “I got a cunting puncture today”

  24. @Marcus

    @minion for once i agree with you.

    @the Engine
    that Tour de San Luis is just a shitty little 2.1 race. TDU is a World Tour race – which is what Minion meant when he said Protour (because he is simple).

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    So far, the TDU has had one sprint finish (ok not that exciting, but they usually occur in stage races!), a stage with a devilish but short climb 6k from the finish and a wicked descent (oh yes, for you UK fucksticks, your boy Thomas raced out of his skin and there was a wickedly good crash to boot), and then a finish with pretty hard uphill sprint finish that saw a young gun (Slagter) get the jump on a couple of ok riders called Goss and Gilbert who came 2 and 3.

    What the fuck more do you want from a fucking bike race in January you ungrateful cunts?

    Maybe we should wait for that outstanding 2.1 race the Tour of Britain? Haven’t there been some fucking epic rides through drab scenery in the rain there? Or maybe we should wait for the Tour of Cali – which has a few interesting climbs but is most famous for the worst set of winners jerseys in the known world.

    Maybe you wish you had a ride at 6am this morning in weather of 28 degrees celsius. I did.

    Zamboni racing is fuckin ace, dont knock it.

    And aye, we are all jealous of the warmth, at 6am here right now its still 2 hours till it gets light and there is a foot of snow on my car right now, so it’s really a moot point. Lucky sheep shagging bastards !

  25. @Chris oh yes and if you object to races with multiple finishing circuits I guess you must despise every Workd Champs and Olympic parcours?

    We didn’t teach you much in your time out here did we?

  26. @Chris

    @Marcus

    @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

    You lot use cunt in the same way that you use mate, without the benefit of pronunciation it can be hard to tell whether its a term of endearment or an insult.

    Don’t worry though, I managed to make it through four years of living in Australia without making any friends so I don’t see why I should let my guard down now.

    Remember that profanity is the weak mind’s attempt to express itself forcefully.

    Ah, who am I kidding? I’m weak, my mind’s weak… profanity as a first language is all I have going for me.

    As long as its been brought up, though, we’d probably all do well to reduce the usage of that particular word just a hair. If you must use it, spell it Irish like koont or NZedish like kint, Strayan like cunzor.

  27. @strathlubnaig

    @Chris

    @Marcus

    @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

    You lot use cunt in the same way that you use mate, without the benefit of pronunciation it can be hard to tell whether its a term of endearment or an insult.

    Don’t worry though, I managed to make it through four years of living in Australia without making any friends so I don’t see why I should let my guard down now.

    ha ha, yes, in Scotland they use the C word as an adjective too, as in “I got a cunting puncture today”

    Is that like a gash in the tire?

  28. @Marcus

    @Chris oh yes and if you object to races with multiple finishing circuits I guess you must despise every Workd Champs and Olympic parcours?

    We didn’t teach you much in your time out here did we?

    To be honest, I don’t find them to be the most exciting of races but at least the participants tend to be on form rather than try to work of their Christmas pudding. The prize makes them a bit more interesting as well.

    @frank Totally get the whole weak mind thing, one just has to communicate on the level of the lowest common denominator. I’ll tone it down a bit though.

    @Sauterelle

    @strathlubnaig

    @Chris

    @Marcus

    @Chris don’t try to be friends now you Pommy cunt

    You lot use cunt in the same way that you use mate, without the benefit of pronunciation it can be hard to tell whether its a term of endearment or an insult.

    Don’t worry though, I managed to make it through four years of living in Australia without making any friends so I don’t see why I should let my guard down now.

    ha ha, yes, in Scotland they use the C word as an adjective too, as in “I got a cunting puncture today”

    Is that like a gash in the tire?

    Beautifully done. N i p p l e   L u b e.

  29. @frank For the record, and since the details are most important Frhonnnk, Cunzor’s a kiwi word not Strine. A c followed by the letters aaaarrrrnnntt is the traditional Aussie pronunciation, while in the recent past I’ve been a fan of the Wiggins option, involving asterisks.

  30. Nicole Cooke’s gold at Beijing was the highlight for me of a great games. I thought she’d bottled it going in to that last corner, she seemed to back off but she was really just backing herself fornthe uphill finish. I’d been up all night with my new born son, finally got him to sleep with about 10k to go then undid my good work, woke the poor little guy up as a roared at my tv and Ms Cooke across the line. Brilliant

  31. Australia has a new national anthem!

  32. @Sauterelle a little too close to the bone.

    On this Australia Day my on bike survey of my countrymen found interesting results. Over the space of 5.5 hours there was a 100% correlation between cars displaying Australian flags and drivers who acted like….. Farking Carnts.

  33. Sitting on couch after ride watching the TDU and reading Velominati. I’ve got it all, pros cranking it up on TV and some quality blue language on Velominati, you cunts. The only thing missing is Heinrich and his bad hair getting ready to finish second on the stage.

  34. @Marcus

    @Sauterelle a little too close to the bone.

    On this Australia Day my on bike survey of my countrymen found interesting results. Over the space of 5.5 hours there was a 100% correlation between cars displaying Australian flags and drivers who acted like….. Farking Carnts.

    Nah, fuck that.

    Spot on in my opinion.

  35. My favourite thing that Australia has given the world…

    sneaky nuts

    http://youtu.be/-XGR3f4A3Mw

  36. @motor city

    My favourite thing that Australia has given the world…

    sneaky nuts

    http://youtu.be/-XGR3f4A3Mw

    Damn, you know it must be bad when the country won’t allow it to be uploaded.  Never had that “unable to upload” message before.

  37. @Lebowski

    Nicole Cooke’s gold at Beijing was the highlight for me of a great games. I thought she’d bottled it going in to that last corner, she seemed to back off but she was really just backing herself fornthe uphill finish. I’d been up all night with my new born son, finally got him to sleep with about 10k to go then undid my good work, woke the poor little guy up as a roared at my tv and Ms Cooke across the line. Brilliant

    Dude, that’s very undude like.  Be careful, there might have been a drink there.  Now excuse me while I go find a cash machine.

  38. Wow, a good article about an inspirational cyclist quickly turned into a very unpleasant and decidedly humourless shouting match. There are a lot of really strong and talented women in my cycling club. I’d be ashamed to give any of them a link to this article now.

  39. @Apex Nadir

    Wow, a good article about an inspirational cyclist quickly turned into a very unpleasant and decidedly humourless shouting match. There are a lot of really strong and talented women in my cycling club. I’d be ashamed to give any of them a link to this article now.

    Give them a link to the speech then. Most definitely worth it.

  40. @Apex Nadir

    You haven’t been around here much have you? And I take far more offence at being called humourless as opposed to a carnt.

    Lighten up Francis

  41. @Marcus

    @Apex Nadir

    You haven’t been around here much have you? And I take far more offence at being called humourless as opposed to a carnt.

    Lighten up Francis

    I’ve been reading for a while, but that was my first comment. This thread crossed the line from banter to outright vulgarity long ago. It appears some people feel threatened by a talented female rider.

  42. @Apex Nadir

    The stupid convo – of which I was a willing participant – had nothing to do with wonen’s racing. It was all about swapping shit about the TDU. The convo moved off onto that tangent ages ago.

    Fair enough you don’t like the profanity but it had nothing to do with women’s racing.

  43. @Marcus

    @Apex Nadir

    The stupid convo – of which I was a willing participant – had nothing to do with wonen’s racing. It was all about swapping shit about the TDU. The convo moved off onto that tangent ages ago.

    Fair enough you don’t like the profanity but it had nothing to do with women’s racing.

    @Apex Nadir You’re taking it way too seriously and out of context. if you really have been lurking for a while I can’t believe you think THIS thread is vulgar.

    And I struggle to see any basis for the suggestions that people are somehow denigrating Nicole Cooke. The closest may have been my comments on the commercial aspects of women’s cycling but that’s not an attack on the people involved.

    Even I agree with Marcus on this one…. cue the apocalypse.

  44. I’m sure there is some weekly cunting badge we hand out here. Marcus has been doing a lot of heavy lifting today.

    Not sure what the rest of you ignorant pasty-skinned fat turds living in your fucked little snowcaves define as an interesting race? Maybe it needs a fucking Zamboni to get you interested.

    Gold I say, gold.

  45. @Apex Nadir

    @Marcus

    @Apex Nadir

    You haven’t been around here much have you? And I take far more offence at being called humourless as opposed to a carnt.

    Lighten up Francis

    I’ve been reading for a while, but that was my first comment. This thread crossed the line from banter to outright vulgarity long ago. It appears some people feel threatened by a talented female rider.

    Whilst it may have been childish and vulgar (I’ll concede the first but not the second), that had nothing to do with being threatened by female riders. It started with an assertion that if men’s racing included too many flat 116km stages a la TDU, it would be mens racing that lost sponsorship.

  46. Damned iPad.  Didn’t mean to post at that point.

    If you paid a little more attention, I think you’d soon realise that the people here hold women’s racing in very high regard. I cannot remember any comment that has been intended as a put down, even in an attempt at humour. There may well have been arguments that women’s racing should not be treated/ rewarded on an equal basis but those would be tend to be on the basis of simple market economics.

    Life is too short to feel ashamed about the use of a word, especially when it wasn’t you and you have no control over those using it. Don’t look at the word! Look at it’s context.

  47. @Apex Nadir

    If you ate wondering I still think both Chris’ are carnts

  48. @Marcus

    @Apex Nadir

    If you ate wondering I still think both Chris’ are carnts

    So do I!

  49. @Sauterelle

    Australia has a new national anthem!

    When did it switch from “All Australians Born Illegitimate”?

  50. women’s tour of qatar will be on http://www.en.aljazeerasport.tv/Live/channel/global 14.30 mecca time or 10pm sydney

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