Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Benalla cyclist announces retirement

Baden Cooke has announced his retirement after 14 years of competitive cycling.

MONIQUE FREER December 4, 2013 4:17am

Baden Cooke and Jens Keukeleire in Paris-Tours. Photo: Graham Watson.

After a decorated 14-year career Benalla cyclist Baden Cooke is bidding the sport farewell.

The 35-year-old cyclist will retire at the end of this year and focus on setting up a sports management company from his base in Monaco.

‘‘After 14 years racing at the highest level, I am moving on,’’ Cooke said.

‘‘Having the honour of finishing my career with Australia’s first own World Tour team has been a dream.

‘‘Racing surrounded by my best mates has been a phenomenal experience.’’

Cooke began racing competitively at Benalla Cycling Club at the age of 11, and was trained by local cycling legend Barry Burns.

Growing up in north-east Victoria he was surrounded by many cycling talents, and looked up to Olympic gold medal track cyclist Dean Woods, Olympian Glenn Clarke and the late Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Damian McDonald, all from the Wangaratta area.

‘‘I am very proud of my career and am ready for my next adventure,’’ Cooke said.

‘‘I feel blessed having had the life and career that I always dreamed of having since I was a little boy starting out at Benalla Cycling Club with a BMX and a stack hat.’’

Cooke’s first professional contract was with American team Mercury at aged 21, before he went on to ride for teams such as La Francaise des Jeux and Danish group Team Saxo Bank.

He rode alongside the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck and Jens Voigt, and eventually became teammates with Mansfield-raised rider Simon Gerrans, and Shepparton’s Brett Lancaster.

Throughout his career Cooke contested the Tour de France six times, winning the green jersey in 2003.

He recorded major wins at the Paris-Correze and Dwars door Vlaanderen road races, won bronze in the road race at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and rode for Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

‘‘All I ever wanted in life was to race bikes professionally,’’ Cooke said.

‘‘I never thought I would have so much success and win the races that I did.

‘‘I am retiring from racing at a professional level, but I will continue to train and don’t be surprised to see me pop up at a local race.’’

Cooke signed with Orica GreenEDGE two years ago, but was not offered a new contract this year.

He will now turn his attention to setting up a rider management company in his base at Monaco.

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