Nicole Cooke has been at the top of her sport for 11 years, in which time she has been crowned both Olympic Road Race champion and World Road Race champion - but as men's cycling has enjoyed a recent boom and a steady rise in both financial and coaching support, Women's racing has struggled - which has left Nicole Cooke angry and dismayed. She pointed to doping and the UCI's lack of support as one of the main reasons for the decline in support and funding for Women's road cycling. A passionate women Nicole has never been one to shy away from saying what he thinks, which hasn't always been helpful (some could argue that her words have alienated British Cycling during her career) but in today's press conference she made a bold and testing statement unlike anything we have heard so far from the male elites.
On the UCI and doping Cooke said:
"Every scandal on the men's side has caused sponsors to leave on the women's side. With such thin budgets, the losses have a greater relative impact on what survives. I have been robbed by drugs cheats, but am fortunate. I am here with more in my basket than the 12-year-old dreamed of."
"But for many people out there who do ride clean - people with morals - many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work, some going through horrific financial turmoil."
“While they (the UCI) have been busy with all these priorities, the women's road sport, that looked so promising in 2002 when I turned professional, has crumbled. My time in the sport has finished. I hope I will look on in 10 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."
"When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward - just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances. I have ridden through the time of Lance and all of the dreadful tragedy that the abuses surrounding him have brought to my sport. I have faced up to the temptations but have always remained true to the 12-year-old inside me."
"Yes I have suffered as a result, in many ways, but so what? I am not alone, I am one representative of that group, those who do it right."
"I have ridden through some of the darkest days of the sport in terms of corruption by the cheats and liars. I cannot change the era or time that I am born into. I am very proud that I have ridden true to myself and placed my morals beyond a need to win. I have ridden clean throughout my career in a sport so tainted."
Nicole Cooke also hinted at her annoyance with the great difference in pay between the men and women in cycling:
"Tyler Hamilton will make more money from a book describing how he cheated than I will make in all my years of honest labour."
All I can say is: Good on Nicole. If only now the men would follow suit.