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NICOLE COOKE

My name is Nicole Cooke. I was born in Swansea and I live in Wick, in the Vale of Glamorgan. Since an early age, I was very active and did all sorts of activities and sports, and I had a bike and we loved going out, me and my friends, around the lanes. I took part in all the sporting activities available in the village and at school and did everything really, pretty normal, until I did a race when I was 11 and I really enjoyed it. It was a great race to do; it was a cyclo-cross in the under-12 category. I think I came fourth or fifth, nothing special, but I really wanted to get better and get into training, get into racing and started doing more cycling as training rather than just for fun. And a few months later, I won my first race and it was the Welsh Under-12 Cyclo-Cross Championship where I actually beat all the boys.

a family thing

Cycling had always been part of our family growing up. My dad used to race when he was younger at a regional level and he had a tandem left over from his cycling days, a very old, vintage tandem and I saw it one day in the loft and said, “Dad, what’s that?” And he got it out and restored it and during the restoration process he actually found another tandem, so he restored both and we went on cycling holidays. That was our family holiday in the summer. We’d go away for ten days, two weeks, with the panniers loaded up with all our things for the two weeks’ holiday and it was great fun. It was a family thing. My mum would ride and I would normally be with her on one tandem and my dad and my brother on the other, and we just loved it and I think that’s where my love for cycling came from, that it was something that we all did together. Wonderful memories of these holidays, and when the chance came to do a race I wanted to give it a try.

i could be good at this

When I won the Welsh Under-12 Cyclo-Cross Championships, that was the first time that I thought, “Hang on, I could be quite good at this. I’ve beat all the boys so I must be doing something right!” That was the first confidence boost for me to see cycling as something I could do competitively but I still had no idea how far I could go. So speaking with my mum and dad, they supported me to go on a racing trip to Holland which I went the following summer when I was 12, with three other British riders and that was a wonderful experience because I had seen the Tour de France on the television. They had half-hour programmes on Channel 4 and we’d watch that and knew that the Tour de France was huge and there was a professional racing scene out there. But there was no international races in Great Britain, let alone Wales, and the races that I did - I was then in the Under-16 category - there was probably about four or five riders on the start line aged between 12 and 16, so after a few minutes we were all spread out. So it was quite hard to actually have competitive racing even though we were in the same race. There was no tactics or much of a race plan; it was just start, hang on to the fast riders as long as possible. Then it became a time trial as you just made your own way to the finish.

I remember that first racing trip in Holland was incredible. We were racing in categories of one year age groups, so I was racing against 12 year-olds from Holland, Belgium and some other countries and we had city centres closed off for us; there were commentators; we had motorbikes leading the race; there were big presentations after the race with flowers, jerseys, because the stages linked together to the mini stage race so we had the yellow jersey for the leader, the green jersey for the points competition, and we had crowds of people coming to watch. Some were families and friends of the local riders and everyone seemed to be involved, and it opened up a whole new world to me that, “Wow, if I’m a professional cyclist this could be what it’s like every race”. So that really motivated me and I remember coming back and telling mum and dad all about it and we then had the big question, “How are we going to make it happen?” I wanted to try and be World Champion, Olympic Champion but no one from South Wales or even Britain was even racing internationally and so we had an unknown journey in front of us … but we were going to give it a go.

I’ve always grown up with a family attitude to do our best first of all and to perhaps think a bit out of the ordinary. Going and doing tandem holidays was not the normal family holiday at that time. My mum and dad both cycled to work a lot and we did lots of things and had lots of experiences which were perhaps out of the ordinary. So, for me to have this dream of being an Olympic Champion might have been out of the ordinary but for us in our family it was, “Okay, let’s give it a shot. Let’s go for it.” We were always very grounded in the way that we went about things and we knew that there would be a lot of hard work along the way and a lot of dedication, but it was something that I really wanted to try.

role models

In the late ‘90s, there was Chris Boardman who was successful and Graham Obree as well, but very few British riders were actually leading the way as to how to progress from the British racing scene to the international racing scene. I was very lucky here that we had two very good riders, Sally Hodge from Cardiff who was actually a World Champion on the track in the late ‘80s and Louise Jones who was Commonwealth Gold medalist in 1990. So pretty soon in my cycling days, I met both Louise and Sally and that was a very important experience for me because I saw that they could go out there and be at World Championships, win races, win Commonwealth Games. That gave me a bit of inspiration that if they can do it and they are from South Wales and they train up the Bwlch and train up Maindy track, well, I’m training on the same roads so I can do it, too. So that was very important for me but they had both retired so it was very much down to the support from parents to help me forge my own way in cycling.

beating the boys

I was 13 and I won my first British Championship. It was the Under-16 Cyclo-Cross Championship, so I was one of the younger competitors in there and it was the start of a domination of the Under-16 ranks. I won four consecutive Cyclo-Cross titles, Mountain Bike titles through the Under-16 category, three consecutive Time Trial titles. But at that time, there were five Under-16 Boys’ Track Championships, none for girls, and I was thinking, “Okay, I ride the track, I raced up Maindy, was very competitive up there against the boys, beating the boys in races”, and so we spoke to British Cycling, “Can I ride in the boys race?” “No, you can’t do that!” “Well, can I ride the women’s race? No, you can’t do that!” So, it ended up that we wrote to British Cycling and said, “Please, can you put on the Under-16 Girls’ Track Championships?”, and they did so in 1998. We had the first ever Under-16 Girls’ British Track Championships and seven of us rode and we got stuck in, we gave it our all, and I won all four sprint events, the endurance ones and the sprint ones, and followed that up the next year with another clean sweep.

So, I’d had an extremely successful time as a youth, and I went back to racing in Holland every summer, in the Stage Races for Youths, for Under-16s, and in 1997 I was 14 and I actually won the event outright, beating all the Dutch boys and Belgium boys. It was the first time it had ever happened in the history of the Stage Race - which had been going for about 40 years and had a very illustrious list of winners that had gone on to be stars of Dutch cycling and professional cycling on the men’s side - so that was also a really big moment for me, to do something which was special and recognised beyond Great Britain.

Now, we’re getting on to the Senior Junior years. While I was racing and winning a lot of the Under-16 British Championships, they didn’t have an Under-16 Girls’ Road Race Championship. I had my sixteenth birthday that year which meant that I could ride a race on the open road, because up until that point all Under-16s had to ride on closed circuits for the safety, and so I entered the elite British Road Race Championships. I think it was the week I got my GCSE results, and we went up to Milden Hall where they have the Grass Track Rally, a long weekend, and we raced the Grass Track as well as all the other disciplines. I went there with my dad. We had a plan worked out for the tactics and against the rivals and what we thought might happen, and I won it and became the youngest ever British Champion at 16 and beat some very good riders at the time as well, so it was certainly a breakthrough, the first senior title, and really put me on a lot of people’s radars. The honour of wearing the British Champion’s jersey is one which I’ve been able to do on many occasions, so it was a very special and important moment for me.

riding to school (and Sydney?)

We’re at the end of 1999. Going into 2000 was quite a big step for me. I went up into the Junior age category and was then going to be targeting the Junior World Championships, and so lots to look forward to. My training rides where I used to ride to school had been upped. We didn’t go the short way in. We managed to find a route around the coast road by Ogmore by Sea and Southerndown, and I think, at our longest version, we took in three hills along the way plus a sprint at the end before we got to Ewenny. It was quite a little training session we had going into school in the morning.

I think it was through that winter that we knew the Sydney Olympics were coming up and I was the British Champion so we were waiting to hear from the British selectors about going to the Olympics. Where I stood - I was the best in Britain - so thought I’d be included. The first we actually heard of it was when the British Cycling Federation got in touch and said: We aren’t going to consider you at all for the Olympics because the UCI - which is the governing body for cycling - has put a minimum age on the Olympic Road Race. It’s one of the hardest events, it’s over three hours long and the minimum age is 19 and you’ll be 17 so you can’t go, so we’re not even going to select you. It was in the press in Wales at the time and a lawyer got in touch with me and said, “We’ve been doing some research and it says in the Olympic Charter, ‘Age will not be a barrier’”. So, we went to meet this lawyer and talked about what we could do and he said, “You’re a member of the British Cycling Federation so you can ask them to appeal it on your behalf and they can appeal it with the UCI and it should be fairly straight-forward to overturn it”. He wrote to the British Cycling Federation and asked them and they wrote back and said, “Nicole’s win in the British Championships was a fluke!” The lawyer read us the letter and we had a chat about it and my dad said, “That’s out of order. That’s not a fluke. Nicole was clearly one of the strongest in the race and we’ll have some other races coming up, so we’ll soon see exactly where things stand. So write back and ask them again!” I think probably the next week, we had a round of the British Road Race series and it was one of the only races where all of the British Senior team were competing. They were all on the start line. I was there, too, and I won the race and it was the exact same first, second and third as the British Championship!

My lawyer wrote back and said, “I don’t think lightening strikes twice. How about supporting Nicole and going through this process?” A few weeks later we got the response back. It was from Brian Cookson of British Cycling and he said, “Well, if we’re going to do this process, it has to be a Board decision and you can rest assured I will bring it up with the Board at our next meeting in November!” After the Olympics! So, at this point, we really were banging our heads against a brick wall and we just accepted it at the time. It was absolutely ridiculous how they were acting and we’d done everything we could.

Lottery funding had kicked in, so they had been spending a lot of money on their riders, giving them the best support and I think a 16 year-old school girl coming along with her dad and beating them probably wasn’t what they wanted to happen. They should have been dominating the British scene. All we ever wanted to do was the best for British Cycling which is why we wrote to try and get the Championships for the Under-16s and develop cycling. You would have thought that we both had common goals of wanting the most success possible. So, I don’t know what the motivation was but it was very disappointing that they weren’t there supporting me and helping me on my path to my dream of winning an Olympic title.

punctured

Luckily, I had the Junior World Championships to focus on, so I went to my first Junior World Championship. It was June 2000. It was the World Mountain Bike Championships. I got a bronze medal so it was a good start but I was extremely disappointed with it. I had been leading the race at the half-way distance and then had a mechanical mishap which can happen on the mountain bike. It really does test the bike and the equipment, and I was extremely disappointed with the bronze medal.

After that came the Track Junior World Championships and it was a very unpleasant experience to be honest. My mum and dad had been so supportive with everything that they’d done and when it came to one of the races the mechanic said that my wheel that we’d chosen specifically because of the aerodynamics, the tub on it was punctured, so we changed it and I rode with a different wheel and I didn’t have a very good Pursuit and in the Points Race I came fourth, which was one point from the podium, so extremely disappointing. And when I came back my dad was asking, “Well, you know, why didn’t you use your wheel”, and I said, “Well, it got punctured and they couldn’t change the tub”, and my dad had a look because the tub was still on there that he had put on and had a check and couldn’t find a hole in it, checked it again, pumped it up really hard. It was still up a few days later! “It’s not punctured. There’s nothing wrong with it!” And my brother rode a 10 mile Time Trial on it a few months later, the exact same wheel, the exact same tub! So there were lots of things which really threw me at the event and it wasn’t a nice experience at all for me.

over the rainbow

But once again, I looked to the next race and this was the Junior World Road Race Championships in Brittany in France. My dad and I had been there the year before to ride around the course, to check what was in store, and I won the race. It was one of the highlights of my career, an absolutely wonderful day. I was in the first year of the two age groups, one of the youngest in the category, and rode in a very commanding style, forced the break-away to happen of five riders and then attacked the break-away to win solo. It was a wonderful race. My mum and dad were there, my brother was there as well, and it was a very special moment to win a rainbow jersey as well as World Champion.

an a grade racer

In 2001, I was then a second-year Junior and was also completing my A-Levels. I had taken my maths GCSE early and then started my A-Level maths as well, so I’d actually finished my maths A-Level in my first year of A-Levels and was working on two A-Levels in my second year, plus going for as many world titles in the Junior category as I could. And I think that year we had the foot-and-mouth disease, so I didn’t do much mountain biking all year because of that and just concentrated on the road. In August I think it was, I went off to America where they had the World Mountain Bike Championships and I won the Junior World Mountain Bike Championship so that was a fantastic performance. I think I raced it very tactically which played to my strengths really in terms of my performance against my rivals, rather than just going our there doing the Time Trial type of tactic which I’d done the year before.

And then, about a month later, there was the Road Race World Championships and Time Trial World Championships, and I won the Time Trial and won the Road Race. I won a total of four Junior World titles which I don’t think has ever been done before in one year or altogether, and also to win in such a variety of disciplines, Mountain Biking and Time Trial Road Racing. It can happen on the velodrome, whereas this was Mountain Biking, challenging on the technical side of things, bike handling, Time Trial, just super-high power and speed, and then the tactics of Road Racing and making your attack and knowing what to do. Very different disciplines, so that was an amazing success, what I see as the beginning of my career brought that chapter to a very nice close.

turning pro

2002 was my first year as a Senior and I turned professional with a racing team in Italy which meant moving to Italy. I remember going off in the February of that year with a suitcase. Someone was going to meet me at the airport and then get my bike sorted and meet my team mates, a very exciting year for me. The two main things that season were learning about professional racing - the first time racing in big teams - and also the Commonwealth Games which were on the horizon in Manchester. I won, I think, about four or five races in the first half of that season so an incredible start from the Junior ranks straight into the Senior ranks and winning races, so that was a wonderful experience to continue with the winning of races … and then the Commonwealth Games came.

riding for wales

It was in Manchester and I’d been up and ridden the course the year before, taken pictures of everything, so was ready, but had quite a disappointing Time Trial which was the first event. When it came to the Road Race, it was a chance to put that right and to really show what I was capable of. It was hard to control the race in any way because I was riding by myself really. I had my team-mates there but when it came to the selection and that select group at the end, I was riding by myself and it was quite hard against the Canadians and the Australians. There were a number of riders in those select groups, but I won it. I had an amazing sprint at the end, won the race. I’d aimed for it but I don’t think I ever considered myself really one of the favourites. I was 19 years-old in my first season racing against seasoned professionals and bigger teams as well. It was definitely one of the happiest days as a racing cyclist. All my family was there and it was a great atmosphere. Racing for Wales, it just brings another dimension to it. It’s very special. We had a wonderful ceremony for the medals. It was absolutely wonderful when the Welsh anthem was played.

gaining experience

So, after my big win at the Commonwealth Games, my first senior title, I then aimed for other big races, the World Cup Series of one day races, and then the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and that was a huge experience for me. I went in there as one of the riders to watch, definitely likely to be up there, and ended up finishing in fifth place which is an amazing result, but when I was aiming for the podium or possibly to win it, then it was hugely disappointing. I learnt so much from that experience. The pressure was intense. It was nothing I had ever experienced before. Everyone just seemed to up their game for that one race because it is the most important race of four years of people’s lives.

beijing

The build-up to Beijing had been quite a roller-coaster. I’d had an injury in 2007 to my knee and actually had key-hole surgery at the end of 2007, and had to cut my season short. So already, things were getting tense in terms of the preparation. Am I on track? Is everything going to be ready in time in terms of training and my preparation? I went out to Beijing in December 2007, rode the course and took lots of video footage so that I could look at it in the next months in the build-up to actually going to the Olympics. My knee injury rumbled on even after the surgery and it was only at the end of January that I actually was able to start training. I still had rides where I had knee pains but I was actually on a training programme. I was very unsure of how it was going to unfold. I knew if I could have a good block of three months then I could really put a lot of work in and be at world-class performance. But it was full of unknowns.

I managed to recover from my injury and was then able to train and then had a fairly quiet build-up to the Olympics. I was racing a lot but the point I was at with my training I was still not really in peak form and it was only through July in the months leading up to the Olympics that I really got into excellent form which was perfect timing. It was all coming together very well.

I remember when we arrived in Beijing, it was a very different experience from Athens, because there was the security risks, so we were all contained in the village and had to go on certain training sessions on the course. We had our final training session on the course on the Thursday, so four days before my race, and we did a practice finish scenario with my two team mates, Sharon, Emma and our GB manager as well, so there was four of us and we created a run into the finish and then up the hill and a sprint to the line and it went very, very well. I felt very strong. I got my timing right and I realised I had very good form. It had all come together. And then, I became incredibly nervous because, instead of it being a race to win, I felt that it was mine to lose really, because I felt that I had absolutely everything ready and if I didn’t win and everything was so good then it would have been very disappointing. I spoke with the psychologist, Dr Steve Peters and he gave me some very good advice. He said, “Well, you’re a racer, you love racing, so when the time comes just get into it and get stuck in and you’ve done all the hard work, you’ve done all the preparation, just relax, but when the time comes to race you’ll be ready and be totally focused on that race day”. It helped a lot.

the race to the line

The ending we practiced as a team was very important to judge the distances of when I could give my maximum without blowing up 50 metres before the line and having everyone pass me, but I knew that a lot would come down to actual decisions and instinct in the end of the race. As the race was unfolding, I was marking my rivals, my team mate, Emma Pooley made a break away which some of the riders went with, so she was in the break and I was in the bunch and it was a dangerous move. Emma was riding very strongly and the other teams saw the danger and chased so I could just follow and save my energy and it worked out very well because then as the race came back together and that break-away with Emma was caught, when the next set of attacks came, I was fresh and some of the other teams were weaker from either being in the break-away that didn’t work or by chasing it.

So, over the top of the climb the final break away went, five riders. I was in it and as I saw the gap opening I thought, “Hey, I know these riders and if it’s a normal race I think I’m going to be one of the strongest ones, so this looks good”. So we had to keep working because the bunch was only seven seconds behind. We could see them sometimes chasing us and we descended down towards the final underpass and then up the hill to the finish. Going around the corner, I took it very slowly because it was hammering down with rain and I was on lightweight tyres which are great for the dry but not good in the wet. The others went faster, so I was dropped behind going around the corner and actually had to catch them up, and I’ve seen the replays and it does look like something has gone seriously wrong. But I was able to catch them up and then as we were coming towards the final bend and we were going towards the finishing line, I just thought, “Right, I’m going to take this on. I’m going to go for it.” I was the first one to attack and to lead it out. I knew my rivals would be following me in my slip-stream but I knew that I’d done the type of training for that finish. I’d found a hill similar to it to go training on throughout the year and I knew that I could have that initial kick and then keep it going and kick again closer to the line, and that’s what happened!

I knew I’d won about three metres after I’d crossed the line because I had been so focused on crossing that line and when you put the best part of fourteen years of work into that one race, the last thing I wanted was to ease up and someone come past in the last metres or even centimetres. I had been saying it over and over, “I must keep focused on the line”. There’s plenty of time to celebrate if it goes well, so just cross the line.

the joy of winning

The moment. Well, it’s a very unique feeling because my body is at its absolute limit of breathing hard, legs exploding, lungs exploding, so physically on the limit of how hard you can push yourself, and then the joy of winning and a dream coming true. I would never have imagined myself celebrating the way I did, screaming and everything else that happened, but that was just all that passion coming out because I really wanted it. The celebrations, the fist pumping, I could not take both hands off the handle bars because I’d given so much. I was kind of doubled over with trying to get as much air back into me that, yeah, the clenched fist was all I could do.

doing the double

No man or woman had ever won the Olympic and the World title in Road Race or Time Trial in the same season. There’s people that had it done it in different years but never in the same season. Where I base myself in Lugano in Switzerland, it’s very close to the Italian border and the World Championships were about 25 miles, maybe 20 miles from where I live. The Olympics gave me so much confidence. I had silver medals, bronze medals at Senior World titles the years before that but never actually won a World Championship and I thought, “This could be the year”. So I tried to do some laps on the course, do my training on the course, and then ride home, and it was a very good build-up to the World Championships. I knew no one had ever done the double before, so I thought my chances were small of it coming off, but I was going to give it a shot.

I think having won the Olympics helped because I wasn’t as desperate as I had been the other years when I’d won those bronzes and the silver medals. I was actually able to think a bit more calmly about the race and everything that is going on in the last lap. We were a break-away of five riders. We had two Germans in there, so they’ve got a numerical advantage against Marianne Vos of Holland, Hansen and myself, and I think having won the Olympics I think I was able to just be a little bit calmer than normal. I normally chase anything down and I don’t want to let the race get away and I was able to save a little bit more energy than normal, and when it came to the finish I think I had one of the best sprints of my career. Marianne Vos led it out and I was able to dive for her back wheel, get in the slip-stream and have that sling-shot to actually pass her.

It was too incredible to believe it, first of all. The gold medal of the Olympics, you dream of that; and with the World Title in cycling you win a rainbow jersey which is very iconic. Only world champions can win the rainbow jersey and everyone knows what it is and what it means, so I’d also dreamt of being able to wear the rainbow jersey. You think of all the amazing riders that have been World champion before. The Italians are crazy about their cycling and it was close to where I lived, so I had so many friends there who had come along to watch and support me. The Italians really love their champions and their racing, so it was a wonderful place to win a World title.

2012

Going to my third Olympic Games in London was very special. It was a home Olympics, a chance to represent your country in front of a home crowd, in front of all the supporters, family, friends, absolutely amazing event to take place in Great Britain and very, very special when it came to race day for us. The build-up to it had not run smoothly for us as a Great Britain team. We’d had the World Championships the year before where I’d finished in fourth place - just missed out on a medal - but we hadn’t really had a good preparation for it. There were no training camps or anything, so we really were just thrown together on the race day and things didn’t work out. British cycling learnt from the mistakes, so we had a better lead-up into the Olympics than that previous World Championships and also compared to other Olympics that I’ve done.

We’ve gone from having myself as the lone rider representing Great Britain when it comes to the end of the race to having three riders capable of a result. There was myself, Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead, who were all capable of a medal and a result that day, so we had to come up with a race strategy that fitted everyone. In Road Racing, the tactics are vital, to get the tactics right, and, really, at London, it was a case of the team before the person - the team being more important than the individual. So, we went for a strategy where we would all play to our strengths - and we do all have different qualities as riders - so depending a bit on how the race developed would determine who naturally was more suited to a certain race plan. And as it happened on the day, Lizzie Armitstead got in one of the earlier break-aways that actually stayed away, and Emma and I then moved into our supporting role for Lizzie and she got the silver medal. So, as a team, we couldn’t have asked for any more. It was a fantastic performance. We won a silver medal, the first medal for Great Britain of those Olympics.

On a personal level, yes, I was disappointed I didn’t have the full backing of the team to try and go for a double Olympic title. Mixed emotions for me, but I know that when it did come to the race I had prepared for it. It is disappointing about it being a missed opportunity but at the same time, I can sit here and I am still an Olympic Champion from Beijing, and that will always be there. So, it’s probably easier to cope with the London disappointment because I do have an Olympic gold medal in the bag already. But that really is Road Racing sometimes, and you just have to go with it.

this big game of chess

It’s two aspects. One is keeping everyone else back and sort of disrupting the chase if you like, but then, secondly, as happened in Beijing, when you’ve got a team mate up the road, you can save your energy and, even though you might be disrupting the chase, it’s a lot less energy than if you’re working in the break or working in the bunch. So, I was hoping that that break was going to come back and I’d made a tactical decision. As I saw the break going, I thought it would be caught and then I would launch my attack. But, as it happened, there were four riders in the break, including Shelley Olds of America who was a very strong sprinter and had actually beaten all of those riders a couple of weeks earlier at the Tour of Italy, and I don’t think it would have been the right combination of four riders into three medals. I don’t think it would really work together that well.

But then, Shelley Olds punctured, so the strongest sprinter is out of the equation and three riders into three medals goes very nicely. So then, it changed the dimension of the race and you can’t factor in, “Oh, I think that person is going to crash in three kilometres”. You can’t say that and you can’t think, “Oh, if that person punctures, well, that changes things”. You have to just make a decision in that split second and, at that time. It was a good call looking at the strengths of the riders and the numbers, but that is also part of bike racing - crashes, punctures and the unexpected can happen - and trying to react and deal with those is what makes Road Racing so exciting and for a racer so thrilling that you’re on the start line but you just do not know what’s going to happen and what the race is going to unfold and reacting to these changes and this big game of chess that’s changing with teams using up their domestiques and their workers to do certain jobs and then the leaders: “Are they going to wait or are they going to attack or launch off someone else’s attack”. There are so many scenarios for every single race, and that is the thrill of it. And when it comes right, it is amazing.

You have to really put the team first. There was total commitment to the team and to defending whichever rider was in the break-away which, like I said, is good for the team but also good for the rider in the bunch if the break gets caught. So, there might have been a part of me that was hoping the break would get caught so that I could then have my chance, but it wasn’t likely to be up to me. It was going to be how the riders went in the bunch and how the riders went in the break.

drugs

There’s a lot of focus on drugs in sport, drugs in cycling, and I have always raced clean and that’s the only way I’d ever want to race, and for me, knowing that every win I’ve worked really hard for and is a hundred percent my effort, my hard work, that gives me so much satisfaction, having raced clean in an era when there were people taking drugs.

I had suspicions about riders and some riders were actually caught and tested positive. So, I am a rider that has had a day of being the first clean rider in a World Cup and of having a victory and a celebration and euphoria of winning a World Cup taken away from me. That was a World Cup in 2003 when I was 20 and Genevieve Jeanson of Canada won the World Cup. I came second and a couple of years later she admitted to taking drugs ever since she was 16. So, yes, I know what it’s like to have those days taken away from you and that season I would have been the only rider ever to win four World Cups in a row. As far as I’m concerned, I am the only rider to win four World Cups in a row but you don’t get those accolades and recognition at the moment. I know full well what it’s like having been on the receiving end of people’s actions.

The headlines are all taken by someone else on that day. I still think more could be done in terms of if someone has a positive to actually ban them from the sport for life. I think it’s not a right to do sport. It’s a game and you accept the rules and you play by the rules and if someone breaks the rules then they’ve had their chance, and I think in life in general, giving everyone a second chance is right but this is sport. I think we’re role models, we have a very important part of society and to go abusing the hopes and dreams of young people who may idolise riders, I think is totally out of order.



(This interview took place in Nicole’s family home in Wick on 12 December 2012. The interviewer was Phil Cope.)

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