Nicole Cooke

Cycling - 2013

Nicole Cooke is one of those natural born winners who became the dominant rider in British women’s cycling for more than a decade and one of the greatest in the world at the peak of her powers. She gave an early sign of her all-round ability by become a multi junior world champion. She won four Junior World titles – the Road Race in 2000 in France and the unique treble of Mountain Bike in Colorado, USA, Time Trial and Road Race in Portugal in 2001. All this came after she had won the first of her 10 British Road Race titles in 1999 at the age of 16. Not a bad start to a career on a bike that got off to a shaky start when she refused to ride her first bike with stabilisers and had her first major cycling injury aged seven, when she fell off and fractured her skull. Her father, a physics teacher, was a competitive cyclist in his youth and his daughter would race him twice daily on the cycle ride to and from school.

In 2002, she struck gold for Wales at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester in the Road Race and in 2004 she became the youngest winner, and the first British cyclist, male or female, to win a Grand Tour when she triumphed in the Giro d’Italia Femminile. A fall in the road race in Athens meant she could only finish fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games

She won other titles such as La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (2003, 2005, 2006), Amstel Gold Race (2003), GP Castilla y Leon (2006), Geelong World Cup (2007), Tour of Flanders for Women (2007) and the GP de Plouay (2003).

Her greatest year was in 2008 when she struck gold at the Olympic Games in Beijing and then followed that up by winning the world championship road race as well – the first woman to achieve such a double. The rumours are that she went to bed with her gold medal for the first few nights after her Beijing win, but found that she was so euphoric she couldn’t get to sleep at all. She earned it the hard way, dropping off the leading pack of four riders in the final mile before clawing her way back and hitting the front with 200 metres to go in an uphill climb in very wet conditions to take the title. It was Britain’s first gold medal in Beijing, the first in the road race by a British rider and the 200th gold for Great Britain in the Modern Olympic Games.

She was second at the 2005 World Road Race championships and third the next year. She won a bronze medal for Wales at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and went to her third Olympic Games in London in 2012. After retiring she continued to be a winner, her book, The Breakaway, being named The Sunday Times sport book of the year and Sweetspot cycling book of the year in 2014. It was also a finalist for the William Hill sport book of the year and the British Sport Book Awards. She was named Welsh Sports Personality of the Year in 2003.

Nicole Cooke (Cyclist) Born in Swansea on 13 April, 1983