Nicole Cooke Boardman bike

Nicole Cooke will ride the Grande Boucle Feminine next week as a guest for Swift Racing team.

Cooke, Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley rode for Great Britain in the Tour de l?Aude last month and it had been expected they would do so again at the Grande Boucle (June 17-22).

But Julian Winn, the manager of the Halfords Bikehut and Great Britain women?s squads, has decided not to enter a team for the event, which starts in Ghent on Tuesday and makes its way to Sestrieres in the Italian Alps.

However, Cooke, who won the race in 2006 and 2007, feels the event is perfect preparation for her with the Olympic Games less than two months away, so British Cycling approached Swift Racing and asked if they?d take over the invitation to the race on the basis that the Welsh woman would ride for them.

The team will be a Swift Racing-Great Britain composite squad.

Winn explained: ?I looked at the route of the Grande Boucle and I just didn?t like the look of it. The main reason is because there are a lot of transfers, which are not ideal at this stage.

?It starts in Ghent and finishes in Sestrieres. I talked it over with Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton and they agreed it?s not the race for us.?

Instead the Halfords Bikehut riders will take part in the Abergavenny week races, while Pooley continues to train at home in Switzerland before returning to Britain for the National Championship road race at the end of the month.

?We?ve just come out of a very tough Tour de l?Aude, which in my opinion is a better race. You?re only as good as your last race and we had a really good race there. When you consider that the goal is the Olympics, there?s not as much to be gained from doing the Grande Boucle.

?I?m expect when people hear about it they?ll think it?s a strange move but it?s not about the Grande Boucle or Abergavenny, it?s about what?s best for the girls with the Olympics around the corner. The Grande Boucle is best for Nicole but not for the others.

?Instead they can race 50 miles every day and be back at their base within ten minutes instead of sitting in a car.?

Cooke will now line up with fellow British rider Helen Wyman on the start line in Ghent.

Laws, Emma Trott, Jo Rowsell, Jessica Allen and Catherine Hare will be on duty in Abergavenny.

Meanwhile, Cooke, Laws and Pooley will race as a three-woman Great Britain team for the first time at the Ras de Cymru (July 2-6).


June 17-22

Tuesday Stage 1: Ghent ? Wattrelos, 73km

Wednesday Stage 2a: Wallers ? La Louvière, 59km

Stage 2b: La Louvière ? Fourmies, 90km

Thursday Stage 3: Montdidier ? Drancy, 108km

Friday Stage 4: Domaine-de-Chalain ? Clairvaux-les-Lacs time trial, 40km

Saturday Stage 5: Lac d?Aigubelette ? Villard-de-Lans, 102km

Sunday Stage 6: Guillestre ? Sestrieres, 84km

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.