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Baden Cooke to speak at Echuca-Moama Sportstar awards

Former Australian Olympian and Orica-GreenEdge cyclist Baden Cooke will be the guest speaker at the annual Echuca-Moama awards event.

GEORDIE COWAN January 24, 2014 4:45am

Baden Cooke winning the stage at Sedan in the 2003 Tour de France. Photo submitted


Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke is the guest speaker at next month’s Echuca-Moama Sportstar of the Year awards.

The Benalla-born sprinter recently retired from a 14-year professional cycling career in which he accrued more than 50 wins.

‘‘I was honoured to be asked to speak at the night and I’m really looking forward to it,’’ he said.

‘‘I grew up in the area and although I don’t get back to Benalla a great deal anymore, when I was younger I raced a fair bit over there (Echuca-Moama), so I am very happy to come over and speak to the local sportspeople.’’

Cooke will speak on his journey from a local boy at Benalla to winning the green jersey at the Tour de France.

He will also discuss his struggles, the impact of drug cheats, crashes and low points; being on the podium with Lance Armstrong; life in Monaco and a career cut short.

While he admitted to some nerves of speaking for 30 minutes in front of a few hundred people, he said he had ‘‘a few good stories to tell, that’s for sure’’.

The 36-year-old said it was important to talk about some of the issues which had affected cycling in the past few years.

‘‘On one side, some of the issues (such as) doping have been talked to death and the sport has certainly turned a corner in that respect,’’ Cooke said.

‘‘But for the grassroots people in the sports world, they need to know what happened, what’s in the past and what’s in the future.’’

Cooke started competitive cycling at age 11 and was an AIS scholarship holder.

His professional career began with the Mercury team in 2000 and was successful in his debut season, winning stages of the Herald Sun Tour and the Sea Otter Classic in Australia and the US respectively.

After moving to French team Francaise des Jeux, he competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and claimed a bronze medal behind compatriots Stuart O’Grady and Cadel Evans.

He took part in his first Tour de France that year, before winning the green jersey at the age of 24 the following year.

It was won in spectacular fashion, overcoming fellow Australian Robbie McEwen in the final sprint of the 20th stage along the Champs-Elysees to win overall by just two points.

He came 12th in that classification the following year and competed in the tour again in 2005, 2008 and 2012.

Cooke represented Australia in the road race at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and was a part of several teams during the 2000s, before spending his last two years with the Australian Orica-GreenEdge team.

He has won stages at the Tour Down Under and Tour de Suisse, as well as the Dwars door Vlaanderen and Paris-Correze events, among others.

Since retiring in November, he has decided to move into rider management, setting up in Monaco, which is where he lives.

■ The Sportstar of the Year awards is in Moama on Monday, February 24.

Tickets will go on sale to the public on February 14.

The semi-formal night will include a two-course meal. Tickets cost $30 and bookings can be made through Moama Bowling Club.

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