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Former world road race champion Nicole Cooke says Great Britain’s elite women’s team is fully focused on Saturday’s race at the UCI Road World Championships.
Cooke, who in 2008 was crowned Olympic and world road race champion, hopes the five-strong team can continue the positivity gained from Great Britain’s Olympic success, when Lizzie Armitstead won silver on the Mall in London.
Armitstead has been ruled out of the race with illness, leaving Cooke - along with Emma Pooley, British road champion Sharon Laws, Katie Colclough and Nikki Harris as Great Britain’s representatives for the 129km race with Cooke and Pooley having also ridden in the Olympic road race.
“It’s a shame Lizzie can’t be here as part of the team, we are missing a key rider but we are all really motivated,” Cooke said.
“Emma is on good form as is Sharon, Nikki, Katie and I. We have all got a lot of experience - we’re really up for this.
"We have all got a lot of experience - we’re really up for this."
“I was peaking for the Olympics and my form then. I had a bit of a break and then got back straight into racing. It’s been a bit up and down for me since the Olympics I’ve had a podium place at a stage race at the beginning of September, I have got it in the legs it’s just making sure I am doing everything right and hopefully on Saturday I’ll have a good race.”
The 129km route features multiple climbs of the Bemelerberg and Cauberg hills which Cooke expects will gradually whittle down the peloton to the main contenders. Within the Great Britain team, Cooke anticipates that a leader is more likely to emerge as the race develops with the group well placed to tackle a number of situations.
“I think on the course, as hard as it is, there will be that natural selection on the course and we’ll have many scenarios ready depending on how the race is unfolding,” the 29-year-old said.
“It’s good that we’ve got such strong riders to choose from. We are missing Lizzie but even so we have a lot of strength in depth in the team and we can have different options and there is that support there, it’s a good position to be in.”
Asked who she expected to be the main protagonists in the race, Cooke added: “The Dutch, they are the home team and with the favourite Marianne Vos, the German team, the Italians, the Americans – I think they’ll probably be the strongest nations really taking on the race with us.”
Cooke herself has enjoyed a successful connection with the world championships throughout her career. In 2000 and 2001, she won junior road race titles at the championships in Plouay, France and Lisbon, Portugal respectively, also claiming victory in the time-trial in Portugal.
Seven years later she added the elite title in Varese, Italy and with it completed a historic world championship - Olympic title double after picking up gold in Beijing. Despite that, she regards a home Olympics as the highlight of her career so far.
“The season has been amazing with the Olympics, that is the highlight of my career let alone just this year so that was a very special race and to be part of a successful team performance with Lizzie getting silver. It was a very special day for all of us.
“Right now I’m just putting every focus into the race on Saturday and once that is out of the way, I’ll take stock.”
The elite women’s race begins on Saturday at 1.30pm UK time with live text updates on the British Cycling website.