Published: 14 January 2013
Report: Rebecca Ransom
Wales' most crowned female cyclist, Nicole Cooke MBE has announced her retirement from professional cycling, after a career spanning 13 years.
Nicole Cooke at the 2012 London Olympic Games
Nicole, from Wick, Vale of Glamorgan, is the first rider in history to win Olympic and world road race titles in the same year.
It is the end of a sparkling career which has seen her achieve unparalleled success at the highest levels in road racing, time trial, mountain biking and cyclo-cross, winning national and world titles.
At a press conference in London today, Cooke, 29, confirmed her decision to step away from the professional cycling world, stating her time in the sport was finished.
"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. I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win... I am here before you with more in my basket that the 12 year old dreamed of."
Now ten-times British Road Champion, Nicole first inspired the nation in 1999, becoming the youngest ever winner of the senior British national road race championships at just 16 years old.
The following year she won her first road world title, still only a junior.
She defended her title again in 2001, also adding the junior world time trial and cross-country mountain bike (XC MTB) titles to her name. Already a force to contend with, she inspired loyalty from her fans with further national titles on the road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross.
Her most prominent career highlight came in 2008, when she clinched the world road title and British national road titles in the same year, capped with a memorable win in the women's Olympic road race.
An athlete who could be relied on to rise to the challenge, Cooke's decisive sprint staved off Italy's Tatiana Guderzo and Sweden's Emma Johansson to secure Team GB's first gold medal of the Games.
She has not left many stones uncovered in women's road racing throughout the world, with wins in one of the key women's stage races, the Giro Donne in 2004; triple crowns in the women's prominent UCI Road Cycling World Cup event, La Fleche Wallonne Feminine in 2003, 2005 and 2006; and victories in the Grand Boucle Feminine - a race dubbed 'the women's Tour de France' - in 2006 and 2007.
A true force behind women's sport, she has inspired dozens of females, and youngsters, into cycling.
"My time in the sport has finished. I hope I will look on in ten 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."
Nicole was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year's Honours list and is Wales' most successful female riders of all time.
Reflecting on her remarkable success, Welsh Cycling Performance Director Matt Cosgrove said: "Nicole Cooke has had an outstanding career in cycling, winning both Olympic and World titles. She has been a great ambassador for Wales and Women's cycling. Nicole has inspired many young cyclists in Wales, both female and male to get on their bikes. She will be missed in the sport and Welsh Cycling wishes her well in the future."