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Tales from the Peloton

French cycling legend sees Cooke as the next big sprinter

By Jean-François Quénet in Saint-Junien

Photo ©: J.F. Quénet

Baden Cooke impressed a few people when he scored his fifth win this years (others are: Across Flanders, stage in Circuit des Mines, stage in the Midi Libre, Tro Bro Leon) in Paris-Corrèze where he kept the lead after stage two. One of them is French cycling legend Cyrille Guimard who has been Lucien van Impe, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon's directeur sportif, winning seven Tours de France via three different riders.

Now aged 56, he has retired from the coaching job since he split up with Cofidis at the end of 1997 but he still follows the sport closely as a consultant for French radio station Europe 1. He's also the race directeur for Paris-Corrèze, organised by former pupil Laurent Fignon. Always ready to watch new talents, he's particularly interested in Baden Cooke's progression since he saw him beating Sylvain Chavanel at the 2000 Mi-Août bretonne under the Mercury colours.

"First of all, Cooke is not at the top of his career yet, Guimard commented after giving him his second leader jersey in Paris-Corrèze. Then, I see in him a potential world champion next month in Belgium. He's one of the riders we'll have to count with at the same level as Robbie McEwen for instance. He has a huge natural power and will become one of the best sprinters in the world and probably the best in two or three years time. For now, I see him a little bit too heavy. Even if his physique is a bit different, he reminds me of Walter Godefroot. Like the Belgian, he has the ability to win the Tour of Flanders in the future. Give him two years and he'll be physically mature. He looks like having a lot of confidence and he's already very well respected in the bunch." It's not a coincidence if Cooke has been picked by Guimard's other former pupil Marc Madiot for the benefit of FDJeux.com.

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