The Breakaway

Meeting a cycling legend can be a trying experience. Even at the less than well attended National Time Trial Championship Sir Wiggins was mobbed. The crowd who met Nicole Cooke at St.Switihin’s in Bath, part of Toppings’ literary festival, were more fortunate. Her style was frank, neither self effacing, nor boastful, refreshingly honest and accessible.

“Training up a Welsh hill in the rain, like any cyclist, in my mind I was wearing the yellow jersey on Mont Ventoux”.

Unlike any cyclist she did this too, riding clear early on in the climb and going over the top alone.

Making dreams reality was Nicole’s trade mark, the most successful British female cyclist, winning the Tour, the Giro, the World’s and Fleche Wallone, a few favourites of her myriad victories.

But it was no dream getting there and in presenting her biography Nicole showed both her drive and her incisiveness.

Her love of the bike and her desire to race was evident and her honesty was palpable. Having never shied away from tough situations her legacy is the British female racing scene we see today. As a result British female racing is stronger than ever, in contrast with contracting international race season. In Nicole’s era there was a female Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and full one day race programme.

The contents book is for you to discover for yourself, no spoilers here, the questions she answered from the audience, however, bear recounting.

On the ‘organic’ growth of women’s cycling (racing) she was scathing, a comprehensive race programme doesn’t just happen - it must be made.

The Women’s Tour of Britain she lauded as a strong event and possibly the toughest of the year, acknowledging the huge undertaking it represents for the organiser.

As for doping in cycling, with Vino, Astana and many other ex dopers still involved in the sport she questions how clean the sport can really be.

At the moment it seems that her future doesn’t lie in cycling, and this is to be regretted. A pioneer in the Boardman mould, or greater even, such as Nicole, so sharp and so valuable, should not be allowed to slip away, either from the front of the bunch, or from cycling as a whole. Clearly no respecter of the status quo or reputation, Nicole is what a modern sport needs - to be forthright and to be respected, she is the type of person to make things happen. Let’s hope that Brian Cookson has her phone number.

Read what the Guardian had to say about her retirement statement.