No. 13 Nicole Cooke
Last year’s position: 3rd
It is a mark of Cooke’s brilliance that even during a season when almost everything seemed to go wrong, she still managed to score some superb results.
After winning the Olympic Games and World Championship road races, it was always going to be hard to match the highs of 2008.
But moving to the Vision 1 Racing team and taking over the ownership and running of the team offered a chance for Cooke to break new ground.
Things started well enough, with fourth place in the Tour of Flanders and sixth at Flèche Wallonne in the spring. She was third in the Berner-Rundfahrt too, to keep her in contention in the World Cup.
Fifth place at the Tour de l’Aude stage race in France was followed by fourth at the Iurreta-Emakumeen Bira in Spain, where she also won two stages.
That was followed by two stage wins in the Giro del Trentino and a 10th British national road race title (her ninth in a row).
Things got complicated when it was announced that her team was folding. Her last race for Vision 1 was the International Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany in July. By late August she was back in a Great Britain-logoed rainbow jersey when she was sixth at the GP Plouay and Trophée d’Or.
The World Championship road race was the lowest point of the year. Her defence of the title was short-lived and she withdrew from the race, out of form and out of sorts.
After signing with the top German team, Nurnberger, one of the longest-serving teams in women’s cycling, her troubles looked over, but then it emerged that the company that was stepping in to take over the title sponsorship was not doing so after all.
It is baffling that a rider of Cooke’s class and determination has not found a home where she can be settled, but nevertheless it is remarkable that despite such a turbulent back-drop she has still netted five major wins and a string of top ten placings.
CW’s top 30 British riders of 2009 advent calendar