By VeloNews Interactive
With a total of four world junior titles to her name, Britain’s Nicole Cooke has taken the next step and signed a professional contract, joining forces with the Italian Dela Pragma-Colagno team, which is based near Bologna.
Cooke currently holds the rainbow jersey as reigning world junior champion in three disciplines: time trial, road race and mountain bike. Still just 18 years old, Cooke has been heavily recruited by pro teams for the past year.
“I’ve taken my time in finding a team for this year but I know that I’ve made a great choice,” Cooke said. “I will be basing myself in Italy with the other girls and making use of my Italian that has improved over the past year. The racing will be hard and I’m expecting things to be quite different to the junior ranks. It’s a new challenge and I’m really up for it.”
According to a press release issued Thursday, Cooke is scheduled to arrive in Italy next week and will begin her 2002 racing season almost immediately. Her first big test is expected to come at the women’s World Cup in Italy, the Primavera Rosa, scheduled for March 23 and run in conjunction with the men’s spring classic, Milan-San Remo. Apart from the World Cup, Cooke also plans to compete in this year’s Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, this July. In October, Cooke hopes to take on her first world championship as a senior.
Cooke will be riding alongside Joane Somarriba who has won the last two editions of the Tour Feminin. Cooke said she is looking forward to learning from Somarriba, and drawing on her experience to help in this early part of her career.