Road racers insist that bad blood is firmly in the past


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The Independent Online

When the Great Britain women's cycle road race team were paraded at their swish Surrey country club yesterday, the spat between two of the quartet at the world championships last September was always going to be raised at some point. What happened was that Lizzie Armitstead, designated leader at the time, was caught up in a crash on the last lap, at which point Nicole Cooke, the reigning Olympic champion, made the instantaneous decision to sprint on ahead rather than helping her team-mate back into the race. She missed out on a medal, just, finishing fourth with Armitstead recovering to take seventh place but then giving vent to a rant.

Cooke, she said, rode "for herself – I've never seen her work for a team-mate". Armitstead also made her feelings known in what must have been an uncomfortable team meeting and later insisted she was glad to have done so because "it's been an unspoken situation for too long, and it needed to be out there".

When the question was raised after a couple of gentle looseners yesterday, Cooke, from Swansea, smiled a weak smile and was happy this time to let the grittier, younger Yorkshirewoman take the lead. "I think maybe the media think they have more of an impact on us than they actually do," Armitstead, right, said. Ouch. "Of course it was said, but time and time and time again we've said we're over it. It really isn't about you guys writing in the papers, it's about us as a team coming through it. We have already proved within team meetings that we are a team, so it's not a matter of proving ourselves to anybody really."

The coach is Chris Newton, a personable Teessider, who took over after the world championships and now insists that all is well within the camp and that this particular team would not have been selected if that was not the case. He nevertheless faces a tricky decision in picking between Cooke and Armitstead as team leader and is understandably equivocal at present: "We don't want to leave it to one rider. They should all be there [together] and they'll have shared responsibility. If it came down to a sprint, Lizzie's the leader, put it that way. We've got Nicole, a former champion, to use and she'll be given rein to attack and ride aggressively and if that succeeds, we're very happy for Nicole to go for glory and go for a win."