Nicole Cooke today her announced her retirement from professional cycling after 11 years. The 29-year-old confirmed her decision to hang up her wheels at a press conference in London this afternoon, during which she took aim at drug cheats, former teams and the sport’s governing body.

“I am very happy with my career. I have many, many happy memories over what has been my life’s work since I was 12,” said Cooke. “I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win.”

However, Cooke used the announcement to express regret that she competed in an era tainted by doping scandals. “I am so very fortunate to have been able to have won clean… I have been robbed by drug cheats, but I am fortunate, I am here before you with more in my basket that the 12 year old dreamed of. But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean, people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work.”

“When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward.

“Tyler Hamilton will make more money from a book describing how he cheated than I will make in all my years of honest labour. The situation requires the very basics of morality. Please don’t reward people like Hamilton with money. That is the last thing he needs. Donate his literary prize and subsequent earnings from such publications to a charity. There are many places infinitely more deserving than the filthy hands of Hamilton. I am happy to offer some ideas!”

Cooke also blasted the Union Cysliste Internationale (UCI) for not supporting women’s racing more fully instead of “wasting time” with the Lance Armstrong affair. “Whilst they [the UCI] have been so engrossed trying to find receipts for the equipment they bought after Lance made donations to them, and suing Floyd Landis after he blew the whistle, and hold press conferences calling Landis a liar. Whilst they have been busy with all these priorities, the women’s road sport, that looked so promising in 2002 when I turned professional, has crumbled.”

Cooke also spoke about the struggle that she has had during her career to receive wages from teams, stating that she has taken four of her teams to court to retrieve unpaid wages. “I have won every time,” she said, “but this is incredibly abrasive and exhausting in so many ways.”

“My time in the sport has finished,” said Cooke. “I hope I will look on in 10 years’ time and see a vibrant and healthy women’s road scene. The key to that will be that the female athletes are treated with respect.”

The full statement can be found on Cooke’s website.

Glittering career
Cooke, who was awarded and MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list, is one of Britain’s most successful female riders of all time.

10 times the British Road Race Champion, her finest hour came when she won the Olympic Games and World Championships road races in the space of two months in 2008.

However, the last two seasons have been indifferent for the former world number one.

She recorded just two UCI-ranked victories in that time, the last of which was a stage in the Energiewacht Tour race in the Netherlands in April.

Cycling Weekly reported in October that Cooke was considering retiring from competitive action.

Walter Ricci Petitoni, manager for her 2012 team Faren-Honda, said at the time: “She’s not certain anymore what she wants to do.

“She hasn’t gone like [the real] Nicole Cooke, a bit like last season. Perhaps we expected more from her, but she gave and did everything she could.

“I said ‘if you decide to continue, you have to have in your head that you have to return to be [the old] Nicole Cooke.'”

Nicole Cooke: her greatest victories
British road race champion
2008 Olympic road race champion
2008 World road race champion (below)

2002 Commonwealth Games Road Race
2003, 2005, 2006 La Flèche Wallonne Féminine
2004 Giro Donne, overall
2006-2007 La Grande Boucle Féminine, overall
2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen (below)

2003, 2006
World Cup Series, overall
2003 Amstel Gold Race
2003 GP Plouay
World Championship Junior Road Race
World Championship Junior Time Trial
World Championship Junior Mountain Bike Race

Winning in the rain: Cooke becomes Olympic champion in 2008

Related links

Nicole Cooke: rider profile

  • Mark Evans

    (I see you have posted my comment I made, later, on another topic but not the one below. I presume you don’t want me to express my opinion. Sorry but I think I have a right to an opinion as much as Robert and Steve. Please can you post it up or email me identifying quite which bit of it makes it not possible for you to post. Many thanks – Mark.)

    Thanks Nicole for all the great memories – you were a superstar. The statement is a real class read – well done on that. Hope the UCI read it as well. [Not impressed by the CW take on it, but then when have they ever given you a fair deal. Just loved the fact that they didn’t report Lizzie’s pre-teen outburst.]

    Enjoy your retirement from the sport – there are plenty of other things in which you will excel.

    “Difficult” – I am sure you were – too many insecure blokes not liking a young girl that knows her mind. Don’t worry about the “little people” and their sniping. Robert and Steve would not know class if it drove them in a lorry with the number plate “CLASS” on it.

  • Mark Evans

    Thanks Nicole for all the great memories – you were a superstar. The statement is a real class read – well done on that. Hope the UCI read it as well. [Not impressed by the CW take on it, but then, when have they ever given you a fair deal. Just loved the fact that they didn’t report Lizzie’s pre-teen outburst.]

    Enjoy your retirement from the sport – there are plenty of other things in which you will excel.

    “Difficult” – I am sure you were – too many insecure blokes not liking a young girl that knows her mind. Don’t worry about the “little people” and their sniping. Robert and Steve would not know class if it drove them in a lorry with the number plate “CLASS” on it.

  • adam

    Apparently Cooke fanices a go at writing… imagine her being given the opportunity to write a regular cycling column. i.e. proper journalism that tackled the problems….

  • steve

    i professionally interviewed Nicole after she won the
    Nationals way back. Classy rider but there was a touch of arrogance
    even as a 16 (approx) year old. I think as she grew older and was sometimes outclassed
    the spoilt child began to show and now following a period of poor form she finally spat the dummy.

    Take a leaf out the Roger Hammond book. Deprived of the top results he deserved throughout his career, by doped riders and not one winge!

  • gg/gg

    Good luck “Cookie” in your retirement. I was there when you crashed in the Comonwealth Games road race at Bolton with a short distance to go; you got up and won the sprint.

  • John Cheesmond

    Nicole, having followed your career from the first reports in Cycling Weekly of your successes as a schoolgirl, until your wonderful retiral statement, I would like to add my thanks to those above. Further, rather like steve clarke, I am one of those who found your win in Beijing among the most exciting races I have ever watched, only two others I can think of coming close. I wish you every good fortune and happiness in rest of your life, and can only hope that the professional part of it is in cycling.
    A lengthy tribute article in Cycle Sport is a must!

  • steve clarke

    I read Nicole’s statement this morning and was moved by what she wrote/said.
    Nicole you can retire with your head held high and be VERY proud of what you’ve achieved in Cycling.

    I must say that the Olympic Womens Road Race in Beijing was one of the most exciting cycle races (in any gender) I have ever seen in over 35 years of following the sport.

    Hopefully your achievements will not go unrecognised, how about a tribute in Cycling Weekly or Cycle /Sport?

    Best of luck to you, Nicole and thanks.

  • Simon Daw

    Despite being “out” of cycling at the time, I followed Nicole’s career with interest from about ten years ago. Even amid the euphoria at the overwhelming British success at Beijing, Nicole’s win was something special, reflecting her determination and class. After a long break, it also finally got me back on my bike! I’d like to pass my thanks for what she’s given and to wish her every happiness for the future.

  • Ken Evans

    I hope British Cycling can use all her knowledge and experience, in a good way. If teams paid the UCI the riders’ wages in advance, into a separate bank account, then maybe all the court cases wouldn’t be needed, and riders could concentrate on racing. As others have also suggested, the easiest way to get sponsorship for women’s pro teams would be for top level men’s teams to also have to sponsor a women’s team too, with minimum wages for female riders.

  • Angharad

    The greatest woman cyclist of her generation along with Voss – who can forget the Worlds where Nicole took Voss on the line. Good luck with whatever you choose to do, and thank you for all the enjoyment you’ve given me and other women cyclists.

    Diolch yn fawr.

  • stuart stanton

    One more thing to say……..ask everyone to log on to the BBC website and pick up Nicole’s interview via BBC Wales Only 3 minutes but a lot of substance.

  • Peter Howard

    Nicole Cook – possibly Britain’s greatest cyclist before Wiggins and certainly before Simpson.
    How could we as a nation overlook her fantastic achievements particularly winning the Road Race and Olympic medal in the same year. Cook should have gotten the BBC’s award that year but it went (unfortunately) to another.

  • Pete

    Robert, you should be ashamed of yourself. I would say that Nicole has competed against some of the best female riders the sport has known – she nearly always faced extremely fierce competition.

  • SJH

    I hope Lizzy Armistead will look back and realise that it was an honour to ride with a real legend and true champion…

  • Ian Franklin

    Nicole: I was very proud to be the sponsor through Winslow Press when you won the Senior Ladies’ as a Junior. You were a joy to watch. And your subsequent career has also been a joy. I read the full text of your ‘resignation’ from cycling and I can fully agree with you. Back in the old days, when you were a junior, I sponsored Cherie Pridham who has since blasted her way through management and now runs the Raleigh team. Both you and Cherie have been banner carriers for women’s place in cycling. You are right – there is too much discrimination. Here in Thailand, much the same happens and I am currently coaching a brilliant Thai junior who, though she has world class possibilities, is unlikely to reach the pinnacles you reached because in Thailand the sport’s administration is so backward. And yes, I’ve tried to speak to the Irishman at the UCI about the problems here but in spite of many letters over 3 years I have yet to have a response. Then the drugs cartel is a mafia – especially in Italy where it is said that leading officials are involved in the cover up that still goes on. Given these events I am sympathetic to the difficulties you have had to face and those you have overcome. All I can do now is wish you the very best and thank you for the pleasure you have given us all who have been deeply involved in this sport for so many years. Best of luck to you.

  • adam

    Your ride in Beijing – appearing out of the rain/mist around that last bend – still ranks as one of my most relished cycling moments. I was home alone and shouting at the TV. A superb career overlooked by a shambolic coverage in the media. (I still, also, grunt everytime that arse who interviewed you on the Sports Personality of the Year comes on the box). Well done on acheiving all you have done in a difficult time for cycling and with a tenth of the support that the boys get. I wish you all the best in the future!

  • jonathan polley

    Good luck Nichole – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gutsier peice of athletics (in any sport) than that final sprint in Beijing. Outstanding.

  • Dr John Beaven

    What a great cycle racing career-hope you can coach future generations of British women racers to win clean just like you.

  • stepho

    What a fantastic competitor she has been for so many years. I think that her winning of the road race in Beijing was a supreme and unforgettable achievement both for her and British road racing. It proved to me that women’s racing was every bit as exciting as men’s. I hope that she doesn’t end up regretting retiring too young.

  • Robert

    OK, so perhaps it is not ‘PC’ to point this out, but whilst Nicole Cooke was always a very competitive ‘fish’, let’s be honest, she was always a big fish in a rather small pond. It is all very well Nicole complaining about the lack of money in women’s cycling, but this largely reflects the fact that the number of women competing is about one tenth of the number competing in the men’s side of the sport, plus the correspondingly lesser level of the performances. (In the 2008 Ras, mentioned above, Nicole came in 5th and top woman against a field of domestic second and third category men.) Perhaps Nicole should actually be thankful that the women’s side of the sport is so small. After all, had she ten times as many genuinely competitive rivals to deal with she might not have achieved all the successes that she did! Still, credit where it is due, and her natural competitiveness was always worthy of admiration.

  • Pete

    Nicole, I can understand your bitterness, but I can tell you that many of us in the UK cycling community have the very highest regard for your achievements. You were one of the classiest riders this country has ever had, and we’ll never forget some of your magnificent victories.

    Don’t be bitter, your honesty and integrity means that you’ll never have to apologise or explain yourself – you’ll always be able to hold your head high and say “I did it clean”.

    The very best of luck to you in whatever you choose to do now.

  • phil j

    Well said, And big respect for achieving great results honestly.

  • Phil Walters

    We wish her a long and happy retirement.

  • Oliver

    Good luck Nicole, you’ve been a star.

  • stuart stanton

    Take all my good wishes for the future Nicole….along with others who were there I have a brilliant memory of yourself and the GB Ladies Team in the 2008 Ras de Cymru. TV crews and schoollkids out every day to chart your preparation for Beijing. Just wonderful, The way you attacked the finish of Stage 4 outside Libanus had ‘Gold Medal’ written all over it If only BC had kept that squad, riders and management, together……….

  • Herbie

    Nicole Cooke – just superb! World beater and trail blazer!!