4:33pm Monday 14th January 2013
© Press Association 2013
Nicole Cooke, the 2008 Olympic road race champion, has retired from cycling with immediate effect.
The 29-year-old, who also won the world road race title in 2008, becoming the first person to win both events in the same year, announced her decision in central London on Monday.
The Welshwoman said on www.cyclingweekly.co.uk: "I am very happy with my career. I have many, many happy memories over what has been my life's work since I was 12. I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win."
The 10-time British champion took the opportunity to criticise the UCI, cycling's world governing body, for failing to promote women's racing and for allowing drug cheats to prosper in men's racing.
Cooke was a trailblazer for cycling in Britain, particularly for women's racing. She won Britain's first gold of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in teeming rain by the Great Wall of China. It was the first of eight gold medals for Britain's cyclists.
Four years on she was part of the team as Lizzie Armitstead won road race silver for Britain's first medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Cooke had thought she could put an indifferent four years behind her and mount a defence of her title, but finished only 31st.
The time between Beijing and London was marked by a spat with Armitstead at the 2011 World Championships, when Cooke was accused of riding "for herself", rather than the team. The duo put that behind them before again being team-mates at last summer's Olympics.
British Cycling president Brian Cookson paid tribute to Cooke. "Nicole has enjoyed unparalleled success during her 13 year career," he said. "One of British Cycling's finest moments in recent years was her truly memorable win in the women's Olympic road race in Beijing.
"There is no doubt that Nicole has been a pioneering force in women's cycling for the past decade. She inspired many youngsters to take up our sport. British Cycling owes a huge debt of gratitude to her and wish her all the best."
Armitstead wrote on Twitter: "Congratulations to Nicole Cooke on a fantastic career!"
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