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Nicole Cooke targets second event for London 2012

By Alex Murray

Nicole Cooke with her Beijing Olympic gold medal
Cooke won Olympic gold and the world road race title in 2008

Olympic champion Nicole Cooke has spent the winter training on both the track and the road, with the aim of achieving a golden double at London 2012.

Welsh rider Cooke - Olympic and world road race champion in 2008 - is hoping to break into the track pursuit team.

"The road race has always got a lottery factor and I'd like to do a second discipline at the Olympics," she said.

"It's about investigating what would be that second discipline. It's too early to say if I'll do the track Worlds."

The 2011 track World Championships take place in the Netherlands in March.

There's a lot of things that are new to me and it's great to be able to set aside a such a lot of time to find out about it

Nicole Cooke

And Cooke faces stiff competition to break into the three-woman Great Britain team for the pursuit - the only event available to endurance cyclists at 2012 after a revamp of the Olympic track programme.

The current trio of Wendy Houvenaghel, Katie Colclough and Laura Trott are European Champions.

Cooke may also have to compete with Rebecca Romero - Olympic champion in individual pursuit - and the experienced Lizzie Armitstead for a place in the trio for London 2012.

"I'm still in the learning about the team pursuit phase, so much of it is about technique," Cooke told BBC Sport.

"There have been some good weeks and some not so good weeks. It's very challenging and every week I'm progressing with the training drills we are doing. It's about developing a level of consistency.

"There's a lot of things that are new to me and it's great to be able to set aside a such a lot of time to find out about it."

Cooke has endured two difficult seasons since her 2008 double, including an unsuccessful attempt to set up her own team, Vision 1 Racing.

"I saw the opportunity to create one of the best women's cycling teams out there, so I gave it a go," she explained.

"In 2009, if there was a year to try anything new, then that was it. So I went for it, aimed big.

"A lot of factors I hadn't been expecting played a role; the economic downturn was certainly one of them.

London 2012 is the long-term target but I will have aims along the way which I'll treat as importantly and prepare for as diligently

Nicole Cooke

"It certainly was a learning experience for me. But there's lots of people out there - Richard Branson's one of them - who've gone for ventures which don't work out. I see it as an opportunity that I'm glad I took and learned from."

In 2010, Cooke was set to ride for one of the more established teams, the German-based Skyter-Shipping, but the outfit folded because of lack of sponsorship.

British Cycling helped find a solution, which resulted in Cooke competing for the Great Britain team alongside young riders from the national academy.

In June, Emma Pooley ended Cooke's run of nine successive national titles, and Cooke was edged out of the medals in a sprint finish at the World Road Championships in Australia in September.

For 2011, Cooke has signed for the new Mcipollini-Giordana team, which makes its debut at the Tour of Qatar in February.

Cooke is looking to target the single-day races in the World Cup Series, which she last won in 2006.

After classics such as the Tour of Flanders and Fleche Wallonne in the spring, she is likely to use events such as the GP Plouay to hone her form as she aims to reclaim the World Road Race title in Copenhagen in September.

Emma Pooley

Emma Pooley deprives Cooke of 2010 national crown

"I learned my professional racing in the women's scene through the Italian school so it'll be nice to go back to an Italian environment," she added.

"I'm a very ambitious person and it's nice to have a team that shares that same drive and character.

"Certainly I'm focusing on the big wins in the one-day races, playing to my strengths."

In between, Cooke will look to support her team-mates - including former world champions Marta Bastianelli and Tatiana Guderzo - at multi-stage events such as the Tour of Limousin and the Giro Donne, the women's Tour of Italy.

As a former winner of the Giro Donne, Cooke's experience will be invaluable in the team's biggest home race for their sponsors.

When Cooke lines up in London for the Olympics she will have been a professional rider for 10 years, have won almost every race of note in the calendar and yet will still be a year shy of her 30th birthday.

But she said she had not thought about what she would do after 2012.

She stated: "2012 is going to be a huge landmark for my career so naturally I'd like to look where I've got to then, reassess, re-evaluate my ambitions, my motivation in the sport and for other parts of life.

"Right now I'm very open minded about everything.

"London 2012 is the long-term target but I will have aims along the way which I'll treat as importantly and prepare for as diligently as the Olympics.

"I see them as dress rehearsals along the way that are just as important: it's just planning and preparation."

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see also
Cooke signs with new Italian team
17 Nov 10 |  Cycling
Cooke just misses out on podium
02 Oct 10 |  Cycling
Meet the parents - Nicole Cooke
05 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Brits win Euro team pursuit golds
05 Nov 10 |  Cycling
Cooke rues 'unfair' GB title loss
29 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Thomas wins as Cooke loses crown
27 Jun 10 |  Cycling

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