Looking Back: Baden Cooke on His Career and Retirement

Sat 14 Dec 2013

Baden Cooke will pull on the ORICA-GreenEDGE colours one last time, before signing off from a successful fourteen-year professional career. Best known for winning the Tour de France Green Jersey in 2003 as a 23 year old, he has ridden for some of professional cycling’s largest teams. Cooke will ride his final race tomorrow, fittingly in St Kilda, Melbourne, where he has made his off-season home for the duration of his career. ORICA-GreenEDGE will field a full team at the Logie-Smith Lanyon SKCC Super Criterium, with Matt Goss, Michael Matthews, Pieter Weening, Jens Mouris and Brett Lancaster all lining up alongside Cooke, to send off their friend and teammate.

On the eve of his final professional race, we sat down with Baden Cooke, to reflect on the moments that made his career.

Q: How did you get into cycling?

I was always into running when I was younger and I joined the local cycling club through a friend when I was 11 years old. I found the tactical side of cycling much more interesting than running. My first race was on a BMX with an orange stack hat. I knew immediately that I wanted to be professional, and at 11 years of age I already had my path planned out. I am an extremely competitive person with all things, both on and off the bike. I think that’s what kept me going and motivated to race for so long.  

Q: Who helped you along the way?

A lot of people have been involved in my career at different levels. When I was quite young, I was lucky enough to meet Barry Burns, a local cycling legend where I grew up (in Benalla, Victoria). Barry took me under his wing and coached me for a few years. I ended up living with him while I finished high school. He taught me training techniques that I have used throughout my entire career. I still occasionally call on him for assistance to this day.

Q: Looking back, what were the pivotal moments that shaped your career?

Probably the most crucial moment of my career was in February 2000 when I competed in the Rapport Tour in South Africa. I was still an amateur racing in a mixed National Team. There were about seven top level pro teams at the race, including Telekom with Jan Ullrich. I ended up riding away from a select group that included Ullrich to win a stage, and really from that moment my pro career was assured.

Q: What stands out most from your career?

The highs and lows; winning the Green Jersey in 2003 and then having Bettini knock me off as I was about to win a stage of the Giro, in 2005. I have learnt a lot through cycling, although I am not sure I learnt any one life lesson in particular. When I was younger and I was winning a lot, I always gave plenty of respect and gratitude to the guys helping me. I think that got me a long way; teammates were always willing to lay themselves on the line for me. On a personal level, I believe I won most of my biggest races through pure determination. I'd like to be remembered for that determination. 

Q: What do you say to the young generation of cyclists?

My advice for young riders is to get the best possible advice and to train smart. But the race must still be won on race day. You have to mentally prepare for that race and execute your plan. Many riders think it’s only about training your body, then on race day they don't seize the moment.

Q: Where to next?

I am starting a rider management company in Monaco, where I am based. I will still be going to many races to keep in contact with riders and teams. I feel like I have a huge base of contacts in the sport that will be perfect for this line of work, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge


Logie-Smith Lanyon SKCC Super Crit details:

Sunday 15 December 2013
Men’s race to commence at 1pm
69 White Street, South Melbourne