Number 22: Nicole Cooke
Last year’s position: 13
Just when it was shaping up to be Cooke’s annus horribilis, Cooke pulled out a typically gritty performance to show that she will be back with a bang in 2011.
After Vision 1 Racing disbanded, Cooke was without a team. Ask those in the know why a world and Olympic champion and proven deliverer of big wins time and again was left without a team and all you were met with was sideways glances and shuffling feet.
Maybe Cooke is not the easiest person to get on with, she can certainly be hard work in interviews, but it is because her own standards are so high. She expects everyone to put in the same commitment but perhaps doesn’t realise that not everyone is as gifted.
Anyway, second place to Emma Pooley at Flèche Wallonne meant that for the first time in a long time, Cooke’s position as the best British woman road rider was under threat.
Although she won a time trial at the Iurreta-Emakumeen Bira stage race in the Basque Country in June, it turned out to be her only victory of the season.
She got a tactical working over from the Cervélo team at the National Championships but her protests that the national road race should be an individual event where team-work should not enter into it did not reflect awfully well. It was notable that by the end of the season that particular topic was off limits.
However, the World Championships were Cooke back to her best. Her attacks on the final lap almost came good. She was away with Judith Arndt and was in sight of the line when they were caught by the chasers. Cooke finished fourth, and followed it with fifth at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
But beware next season. Like many a great champion, Cooke will be at her most dangerous when coming off the back of what will be perceived as a disappointing year.
Cycling Weekly’s Top British Riders of 2010 advent calendar: We will reveal one rider per day behind the virtual doors of our sparkly advent calendar from Wednesday December 1 to Christmas Eve, Friday December 24. The top eight will then be revealed in Cycling Weekly magazine’s final issue of the year, which will be in the shops on December 30 2010.