by Molly Hurford
Nicole Duke (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com) has had a terrific season, including a third place at US Cyclocross Nationals, and landing inside the top 20 at Worlds with a 19th place position as the second American (behind Katie Compton) was a great way to end it. While Marianne Vos ran away with the race, the women behind her were furiously chasing through the loose sand to secure their positions. A couple of days later, once the dust (or sand) had cleared, we caught up with Nicole Duke to ask her a few questions about the race and her plans for the off-season.
Cyclocross Magazine: What did you think of the course?
Nicole Duke: I thought the course was the most challenging course I’ve ever raced. It felt like a whole different discipline of racing. It actually brought me back to the days of growing up in Florida and riding my motorcycle in the sand, only problem was, i was missing my throttle. It was a course that definitely takes a lot of practice on and time to acclimate your body’s response to.
CXM: How did you feel on race day?
ND: I felt OK on race day. My nervousness was low, and i was looking forward to the challenge. Sitting around all week just waiting is something I’m not used to as I am usually so busy at home.
CXM: What was it like, racing with that kind of huge crowd?
ND: The crowd was so inspiring and strange at the same time. Mostly what I remember of it is inhaling a lot of smoke from all the cigarettes. Such an oxymoron at a cycling event. I was very happy to be a part of such a historic event. Record crowds!
CXM: How did the race go for you? Did it go how you expected?
ND: The race went OK. I felt fine. I had a really bad start which had me playing catch up for a while but once I settled in, I found a groove. I was hoping for a top 15, so I really didn’t reach my goal. I was happy to be second American on such a challenging course and to have no mechanicals.
CXM: What was the hardest part?
ND: The hardest part I think is obvious, just riding the sand and then there being so much of it. It just sapped your power and to have it repeat over and over was very challenging. I was having major problems trying to get in my pedals as the wet sand would just pack in after running. I enjoyed the challenge of the deeply rutted technical downhills and looked forward to those sections every lap.
CXM: Anything happen off camera (since most Americans only got to watch the feed) that we should know about?
ND: I’m not sure if this was on camera but in the first quarter lap, Katie Compton went down in a corner right in front of me. I thought for sure I was going to hit her and go down also. It was like she knew exactly how to fall and rolled up so I just missed her. Later in the lap, she came blazing by me with such power and speed, I was in awe.
CXM: How did you feel afterwards?
ND: After, I felt relieved and happy it was all over. It actually wasn’t as gut-wrenching as I thought it would be. I also would love to race the course again, I enjoyed the challenge and think there is a lot of room for improvement for me on that course.
CXM: Plans for the off-season?
ND: My plans for the off season are to go to Mexico with the family, ski, run, paddleboard, garden, celebrate with my amazing girlfriends, give my husband some well-deserved time to himself, and dedicate more time to the kids. I will start training and racing again mid-summer.
CXM: How do you feel about the season overall?
ND: I am very happy and satisfied with my season. I saw lots of improvement, learned a lot, enjoyed my travels, made some amazing new friends and hopefully inspired a few women. The highlights for me were all my Avid Shorty Holeshots, USGP podiums, USGP second overall, third at Nationals and achieving my goal of making the Worlds Team. I exceeded my own expectations and i hope to do the same next season. Above all, I had a blast and am tucking away all these experiences to one day share with my grandchildren.
Look for more with Nicole Duke in the next issue of Cyclocross Magazine.