British women fight war of words over who’ll lead team at London Games

A growing row between two of Britain's leading female cyclists threatens the prospects of either winning a medal at next year's London Olympic Games.

2011 UCI world road championships, women, Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke en route to fourth at the 2011 road worlds. Photo: Graham Watson |

LONDON (AFP) — A growing row between two of Britain’s leading female cyclists threatens the prospects of either winning a medal at next year’s London Olympic Games.

While world champion Mark Cavendish is the undisputed leader of the men’s squad and can expect his teammates to help him in his bid to win the Olympic road-race title, the issue is not so clear-cut in the women’s team.

Both Beijing Games champion Nicole Cooke and rising star Lizzie Armitstead are vying for the position of team leader.

It was a role for which Armitstead was nominated at September’s world road championships in Copenhagen, where she finished seventh after being held up in a late crash while Cooke took fourth.

Events in Denmark left the 22-year-old Briton frustrated. A nd her sense of grievance remained intact when he she told on Tuesday that Cooke “rode for herself,”adding: “I’ve never seen her work for a teammate.”

Armitstead explained she’d made her feelings known after the Copenhagen race.

“I said exactly how I felt. And I’m really happy I did, because it’s been an unspoken situation for too long. It needed to be out there. Someone needed to be honest about what was going on and why we didn’t win a medal when we were capable of doing it. I was really disappointed.

“I had support in that meeting. It was a unanimous decision that Nicole didn’t do her job properly.”

However, Welsh cyclist Cooke insisted she had complied with team tactics and only rode for herself when Armitstead had no nope of victory.

“I rode for the team and according to instructions given to me,” Cooke said, adding that she would be happy with a supporting role in London.

“I’ll ride for whoever the leader is.”