Nicole Cooke is Britain’s biggest gold medal hope on two wheels. She has been racing againstboys in Holland since the age of 12 – and beating them regularly. In 1999, the then 16-year-old schoolgirl upset theBritish Cycling Federation [BCF] by entering a pre-Olympic Road Race, and leaving the cream of the British team trailing in her wake. Vast sums had been spent on the ‘World Class Performance Plan’ and Nicole’s win was deemed to be a fluke. So she took part in the next race… and won that too. The BCF told her she was too young and lacked international experience – International Cycling Union [UCI] rules state that competitors in endurance races must be at least 19. The upshot was that the Welsh girl missed out on Sydney 2000 – something that still rankles.
This time around the Commonwealth champion, World Cup Winner, and first Briton, male or female, to take the Tour of Italy, is primed for Athens. She has earmarked the road race as her number one medal priority, but will also compete in the time trial and points race on the track in a bid for unprecedented triple gold. And why not?