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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 12:00 GMT
Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke
After claiming last year's Carwyn James Award with some stunning displays in the junior ranks, it was supposed to be a time of quiet consolidation for Nicole Cooke as she settled into her first senior season.

Not a bit of it!

The world-class racer from Wick paid no heed to inexperience or the troubles of her cash-strapped team, and her impact on the senior cycling scene was nothing short of sensational.

Cooke, 19, was on the winner's rostrum in her second professional race, the Trofeo Citta Rosignano, as she stunned a field that included the reigning and previous world road-race champions.

More success followed as she claimed another three wins for her Italian team, before defending her Women's British Road Race Championship at Resolven.

This led to the launching of an ambitious assault at three Commonwealth Games gold medals - the road race, the points race and the time trial.

The weight of expectation told as Cooke could only finish 10th in the time trial and sixth in the points race.

Rumours were rife that the golden girl had lost her lustre, but the road race had always been her main target.

The teenager stayed with the main group throughout the race before using her finishing power to sprint clear in the closing stages, claiming only the second cycling gold for Wales in Commonwealth competition.

Far from resting on her laurels, Cooke headed straight from Manchester to help her team in the gruelling Tour de France.

Cooke's loyalty was not rewarded. Her Deia-Pragma-Colnago team were struggling financially, and problems with wages culminated when they seized Cooke's bike ahead of the Ronde Van Westerbeek race in Holland!

The Welsh cycling star overcame the distractions to put in a strong performance at her first world senior road race.

She is signed up with a new team for next season, Acca-Due-O, and is ready to make an assault on the rapidly diminishing list of titles that have evaded here.

Nicole Cooke looks certain to be a feature of these awards ceremonies for many years to come.

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 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Wales Sport's Steve James
"Professional cycling is the toughest sport in the world"
BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2002

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18 Mar 02 | Cycling
03 Aug 02 | Cycling
10 Oct 02 | Wales
12 Oct 02 | Wales
19 Nov 02 | Wales
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