Monday, July 26, 2021
HomeInterviewsGeoff Cooke - Velodrome Legend; 50 Years and Still Going Strong!

Geoff Cooke – Velodrome Legend; 50 Years and Still Going Strong!


He was a ‘name’ when I first got into cycling in 1970 and some 50 years later he’s still a ‘name’; Mr. Geoff Cooke, British and Commonwealth Champion ‘back in the day’ and multiple British and World Masters Champion and record holder in recent years.

It’s high times VeloVeritas caught up with this velodrome legend.

Your first win, Geoff?

“My first significant win was the East Midlands Schoolboy Road Race Championship over 10 laps of a circuit with a hill in it held at Nottingham Goose Fair time.

“There were about 60 starters, it was then I realised that cycling was for me – prior to that I’d wanted to be a footballer and had played at County level.” 

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke celebrates whilst Ernie Crutchlow checks left. Photo©supplied

I always associate you with tandem racing, how did you become involved with that side of the sport?

“It happened by accident.

“I worked for a chap called Ron Davidson who was in the Nottingham Phoenix club, he was going to ride the British Tandem Sprint Championship but his partner had crashed and injured himself so Ron asked me if I’d like to ride.

“I agreed and we won the bronze medal.

“The next year we rode but didn’t do anything. 

“In ’63 I teamed up with Eric Thomson, who had twice ridden the Olympics, and we won it – my first of nine national titles on the tandem.

“The event was good to me, always riding as stoker.

“I remember Dave Rowe and I riding a 10.1 second last 200 back in the 70’s – that was pretty quick in that era.” 

I recall you had quite a few partners over the years.

“Yes, Eric, Ian Alsop; Dave and I went to the Olympics in Munich ’72, we did OK but nothing special.

“Then in ’73 Ernie Crutchlow and Micheal Wright beat us in the British Champs; Wright was Belgium based and Tommy Godwin, the GB team manager decided to put Ernie and I together; we just flew.

“It’s an interesting story about my relationship with Tommy; I was very disappointed at not going to the Olympics in ’64 and again in ’68, it’s fair to say that we weren’t on the best of terms.

“My tandem partner, Ian Alsop went to Mexico and rode the team pursuit. 

“I wrote to Tommy regarding my Mexico non-selection, received a reply by return of post and from then on enjoyed a very good relationship with him.

“When Ernie stopped due to his business commitments I paired up with the late Paul Medhurst.

“Paul had actually ridden on the tandem in the ’74 Commonwealth Games competition which Ernie and I won; he was paired with Paul Harland and they took the bronze medal.

“He was born in Scunthorpe so qualified as a Brit too, we won the Nationals in ’75 but not before Dave Rowe and Dave Le Grys had fetched us off.

“I was in a mess, covered in track burns and subsequently discovered that I’d won the championship with a fractured pelvis.

“Paul and I were both in the Raleigh-backed VC Europa after that.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke stoking and Ernie Crutchlow piloting. Photo©supplied

And whilst you were on the podium in the individual sprint, you never won it.

“I was second a couple of times – I think that perhaps I gave too much to the tandem?

“When I started coaching in 1979 I promised myself I’d never race on the tandem again – despite the fact that I had offers from some notable riders to pair up with them.”

Were you ever full time on the bike back in the 70’s?

“I never, ever didn’t work, I was married at 21 years-of-age; I had responsibilities, a mortgage.

“I was a draughtsman with Rolls Royce and then moved into leisure centre management – I remember having to plead for time off to go to the Olympics.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke loves coaching, training, racing and mixing with other cyclists. Photo©supplied

Your coaching career, who did you work with?

“I have great memories of that time, I was National Coach from 1979 until 1989  and think I contributed to their lives, great riders like Chris Boardman, Paul McHugh, Mark Barry, Colin Sturgess, Shaun Wallace

“I only quit because I was moving up the ladder in my ‘day job’ and need time to study for my professional qualifications.

“Chris Hoy bestowed a great honour upon me, he was asked to nominate two people to carry the Olympic torch on it’s journey through Britain; one was a family member from Scotland and I was the other.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke has coached many top riders. Photo©supplied

How did you get into masters racing?

“I did a bit of work with Mick Bennett at the Ever Ready professional  team, it was good to be around the sport and I thought to myself; ‘I still have my bike, I’m going to have a go at this masters racing game.

“I rode the LVRC [League of Veteran Racing Cyclists} track championship and won the sprint.

“Then I rode the World Masters Tack Championship and was second in the time trial and third in the sprint.

“I was on the podium thinking; ‘next time you have to do this properly, Cookie.’ 

“I did, came back next year and won both titles.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke has stood on the top step at World Championships many times. Photo©supplied

Your titles, the stats I have are: 61 British, nine European and 46 World – and seven world records?

“And seven World Master Games – the Masters equivalent of the Olympic Games. 

“It’s funny because I come up against a lot of riders I competed against at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games back in the 70’s.

“I’ve received huge support from Bush Healthcare who’ve enabled me to travel all over the world to compete – I just wish I’d had support like that back when I was younger.”

What do you do with all the medals?

“I have 230, ranging from East Midlands to British, Commonwealth, Worlds and World Masters Games.

“During lock down I took time to put all the golds on a board – it looks pretty impressive.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke’s medal board is impressive indeed. Photo©supplied

Training then and now?

“I wish I knew back then what I now.

“What’s great is that the Derby track is only 10 or 12 minutes away from my home, that’s such an advantage.

“But I do a lot on the road too, 60 kilometres today, 75 yesterday – which isn’t bad for a 75 year-old.

“I do intervals, standing starts – 300/400 metre efforts and never on a gear less than 50 x 14; we used 48 x 14 in Munich on the tandem but in competition I’ll go as high as 125” in qualifying.”

Geoff Cooke
At 75 years-of-age Geoff Cooke is still refining his training regime. Photo©supplied

And times?

“‘Back in the day’ I could ride 11.2 seconds 200 meters, now I can still ride low 12 seconds.

“I race with the kids at Derby, distance races too.

“Cycling saved my life, I was a bit of a tearaway and my dad channelled me into cycling – he loved it too.

“If I hadn’t got into cycling I would never have been to World Championships and Olympic Games and enjoyed the good health that I do – you can’t buy health.

“I went from intensive care after a bad crash to winning a World Master in two months.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke has always looked great on a. bike. Photo©supplied

I remember those nice Raleighs you rode in your Europa days, how do they compare to what you ride now?

“I loved my Raleighs, I got a phone call out of the blue one day from Gerald O’Donovan who ran the Raleigh Specialist Bicycle Development Unit, he said to me; ‘Geoff, you live within the shadow of our Nottingham factory but don’t ride a Raleigh.’ 

“I said’ “I’ll be round in five minutes!

“Gerald actually came up with concept of discs way before Moser used them to break the Hour Record in Mexico; in tests he reckoned they were worth seven seconds in a 4,000 metre team pursuit.

“But carbon frames now are so solid, so light, aerodynamic and responsive.

“Back when Reg Harris used to race they had to gusset the frame at the bottom bracket to handle his power, you wouldn’t have to do that nowadays.”

How do you keep the motivation going, year after year?

“I just want to do it!

“It’s the one thing in life that I’ve been really good at.

“I did 1,053 miles on the turbo trainer in May, if the Worlds Masters goes ahead then I’ll be in shape for it.”

Geoff Cooke
Geoff Cooke does find time for some other interests these days. Photo©supplied

Regrets, Geoff?

“Eric Thomson and I were second in the Grand Prix of Europe tandem sprint, our back wheel was in front of the winners’ but our machine was shorter – that’s a regret.

“And I’d like to have won the British Individual Sprint Championship.

“But once I realised I was never going to be Eddy Merckx and knew I was going to be a sprinter I embarked on a heck of a journey thanks to the bike – I’ve visited 53 countries and attended seven Royal Garden Parties so I can’t complain.

Martin Williamson
Martin is our Editor, Web site Designer and Manager, and concentrates on photography. He's been involved in cycling for over 42 years and has raced for many of them, having a varied career which includes time trials, road and track racing, and triathlons. Martin has been the Scottish 25 Mile TT and 100 Mile TT Champion, the British Points Race League Champion on the track, and was a prolific winner of time trials in his day, particularly hilly ones like the Tour de Trossachs and the Meldons MTT.

Related Articles

Tim Mountford, Part One – Tandem Sprinting at the ’64 Olympics

Tim Mountford was one of the pioneers of US professional cycling in the 60’s and 70’s; he recently gave freely of his time to tell VeloVeritas about his adventures in what was a golden age for European cycling.

Stephen Hall – the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival Series

Aussie all-rounder, Stephen Hall took part in the famous Tasmanian Christmas Carnival series with some success; he gave us this insight from the other side of the globe...

Ron Webb and Life Behind the Big Motors

We've been looking back on the life of the late Ron Webb – one of the most important men in the development of professional track racing and the construction of velodromes all over the World. But Webb was also a rider and cut his teeth behind the big motors. Pip Taylor passed us these words by Ron on some of his time as a Stayer.

Glasgow Sprint Grand Prix 2017

VeloVeritas took a wee run over to Glasgow on Saturday to the Glasgow Sprint Grand Prix; here are some snaps we took which we hope you like. In the language of the Gael, Glasgow is the ‘Dear Green Place’ and right across the road from the splendid Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome it’s even more sublime that that – ‘Paradise.’ At least that’s what the Celtic fans call their Parkhead ground.

Ron Webb

It was with sadness that we learned of the death of Mr. Ron Webb, professional bike rider, father of the modern Six Day format and track builder of renown.

Mick Ives – On Racing Non-stop, Summer and Winter, for 62 years!

Mick Ives won 81 British Cycling Championships in all disciplines and 19 World Championship medals, he’s the only male cyclist to represent Britain in all disciplines: road, track, cyclo-cross and mountain biking; and he held a racing license continuously from 1957 to 2019.

At Random

The VV View: The Inequalities of Doping Sanctions

I had intended to start this piece on the subject of Mr. Dettori’s current woes by saying that Frankie seems like a cool guy to me; but then reminding us that so too did Tyler H. and Lance. But one of our readers has given me a better intro which underscores my point. Namely that it’s not just about Lance and ever stiffer penalties.

Mini Liege (hopefully no 2010 repeat): Stage 1

The first road stage has started! Touted as a mini Liege Bastogne Liege, the course covers many of the same roads as the race known as La Doyenne, one of the single day Classics known as a Monument. The last time these roads were tackled at the Tour was in 2009, easily the worst working day of my Sports Physio career - I was working for the Garmin team at the time.

Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 18; Pau – Hautacam, 145 km. Nibali Authoritative

Bonjour! Hautacam and the Pyrenees are in the rear view mirror as we head for the start of Stage 19 and the start of the long haul north towards Paris. We were on the Tourmalet, yesterday - a beast of a mountain. But first, Lourdes - go, see it and then leave, quickly. At the bottom of The Tourmalet sits Sainte-Marie-de-Campan where - back in the days when men were men - Eugene Christophe had to fix his own forks but the commissars still nailed him because the blacksmith's apprentice worked the bellows at the forge.

Second Big Test

Second Big Test. After a quiet day where the big swinging cats of the peloton were all nice to each other, the fireworks are set to ignite. Hilltop finishes are always a risk for time gaps, and considering Cadel is currently the only contender who would be happy with how things sit on the overall with a 41km individual TT still to come, there are lads who will be sure to attack madly tonight.

Tom Copeland – Season’s Over, Bike’s Handed Back

A couple of months have passed since we first spoke to Tom Copeland, who's living and racing with the French Team Champions, Bic2000, in the Finistère region of Brittany, so we thought we'd get in touch with him and bring ourselves up-to-speed with what's been happening.

Wade Mangham – Happy in Belgium and Working Hard

The phone rings, it's Vik; "Why haven't you spoken to that Wade Mangham boy? He's getting round all right in Flanders." In line with VeloVeritas policy of trying to keep abreast of who's 'up and coming' in the Flatlands, we tracked young Mr. Langham down - here's what he had to tell us about dodgy club presidents, Shane Archbold's mullet - and he has a chat with his bottle cages.