Report: Nicole Cooke
2012 was a remarkable year of sport in Great Britain, and more so in cycling. With Bradley Wiggins winning both the Tour de France and Olympic gold; Geraint Thomas becoming a double Olympic gold medallist, taking Wales' first medal of the 2012 Olympics and Sir Chris Hoy earning the title of Great Britain's most successful Olympian, adding more medals to his haul in the Olympic Velodrome.
But 2012 will remain as a stand out year for many athletes, especially Wales' most successful female cyclist Nicole Cooke. Olympic gold medallist in Beijing 2008 and World Road Champion, in 2012 she took to the roads to support Lizzie Armitstead who won Silver in London, Britain's first medal of the Games. Nicole Cooke looks back at on her Olympic year.
"This season will always be remembered as a very special one. London 2012.
Since that amazing day in Beijing where I won the gold in the Women’s Road Race, I had my sights set on the London 2012 Olympics to try and take on the very best riders in the world and try and win Gold again. It was a big ask, the Road Race is the cycling discipline with most factors in, very few of which you can control.
The build up to the Olympic Games started very well. I had a good training block in Western Australia and in my first races of the season I won two stages in the Perth Criterium Series to win the Series overall, as well as the Sprint Jersey. This indicated that things were on track. However, when I returned to Europe, I was not performing at my normal high standard. By the end of the Spring Classics, I had scored just a single win when up against all the big hitters on the women’s circuit were present, that in a stage of the Energiewacht Tour in Holland. I knew that I was capable of a lot more.
With three months to go to the Olympics I changed coaching strategy to be ready for one of the biggest days of my sporting career. The training did go well and on the day of the Olympic Road Race, I felt as ready as I could be for the 144km event. The crowds, support and atmosphere were incredible. The noise was so loud I could not even speak to my team mates in the race, we had to shout and could only really communicate in the few places around the course where the spectators were not lining the roads in their thousands!
As the race unfolded, the Great Britain team of Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead, Lucy Martin and I were riding well and things were going to plan. Lizzie got in a break away of 4 riders with race favourite Marianne Vos (NED), Shelly Olds (USA) and Olga Zabelinskaia (RUS). Initially, I did not think this break would work; Olds is a very strong sprinter, who, in the run up to the Olympics, had scored a couple of outstanding sprint wins. None of the others would want to take her to the finish and always, the combination of three medals and four riders means one rider holds back and this causes the others to not pull through at the maximum. Then, the race changed as Olds punctured and was dropped from the break. This left three riders, all guaranteed a medal – the ideal combination for a break. They worked very well together and the bunch was unable to catch the trio.
It was fantastic for Lizzie to get a medal and for our Women’s Road Team to deliver Great Britain it’s first medal of the Games. We did a fantastic race and can all be very happy with adding another page to British sporting history. For myself there will always be the “what might have been”. As it was not me in that break or what I really wanted – being in the counter to it, and by defending Lizzie’s chances I never got to find out whether I could have become a double Olympic Champion despite all the hard work and preparation I put in. However, these are the twists and turns one has to expect from road racing. The London Olympics, regardless of my personal result, will always be full of great memories for me. Most athletes do not get to compete at the highest level in front of a home crowd and this was a very special experience. I have so many good memories of London 2012, which I can add to my other wonderful experiences over the years as a professional cyclist."
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