Olympic champion in dispute that could harm her chances of more Olympic success

Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke is at the centre of a row that could harm her chances for victory at the London 2012 games.

Wales Online reports that Cooke – who won gold in the women’s road race at Beijing two years ago – is involved in a row with some of the riders she may need to depend on, both in London and at October’s World Championship in Australia.

The row began when Cooke accused competitors of ganging up on her when her nine-year reign as British road champion came to an end at the National Road Race Championships at Pendle last month.

She refused to shake hands on the podium with winner Emma Pooley, whose attack in Beijing has been credited as setting up Cooke’s win.

Cooke has launched an official protest, claiming international cycling rules say that national championships are the one event that should be competed by individuals and not teams.

“There is no team event,” said the 27 year-old. “UCI rules are quite clear and require no collusion in the competition. I rode alone, just like every other national race in the last 11 years.”

But British Cycling president Brian Cookson insisted there was nothing in the rules to prohibit team racing – with Team Sky colluding to set up Geraint Thomas for the men’s race title.

Cooke accused the Cervélo Test Team of Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead and Sharon Laws of ganging up on her.

“The three riders teamed together against me,” insisted Cooke. “When three riders are racing with that type of attitude it makes it very hard to have a fair race.”

Pooley hit back at Cooke’s claims, saying, “She’s had team-mates at nationals before and hasn’t been shy about using them. Obviously, she’s one of the best in the world and has been Olympic and world champion.

“But there’s lots of other strong girls in the UK too. As a cyclist in a race, even as an individual, you’re allowed to choose who you chase and who you don’t. She came up late for the podium and wouldn’t shake my hand.”

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc).