With seemingly every American cyclocross athlete finding or creating a new team, or at least needing to find a new title sponsor such as the breaking news last night of Jonathan Page teaming up with XcelLED, it appears as if riders being able to maintain their last year’s sponsor is the exception rather than the rule. Interestingly enough, Nicole Duke was one racer who was able to keep the attention and commitment of Marin and Spy. Although she has continued with Spy for some time now, she changed teams from Raleigh/Clement and Alchemy, but it appears as if she found a good match with Marin Bikes.
As noted in her Press Release below, Duke unfortunately is combating the effects of walking pneumonia, and so will miss out on the 2014 edition of CrossVegas. Her heart is still fully in cyclocross, however, and if she can’t command the cockpit of a ’cross bike, she decided she will at least commentate in front of the camera.
Press Release as follows:
Nicole Duke, American cyclocross professional and mother of two, announced today the return of title sponsors Marin and Spy to the cyclocross program she founded last season. Her one-woman team will focus on domestic C1 races throughout the 2014/15 season.
“I’m really happy to continue with both Marin and Spy,” said Duke. “With Marin in particular, I feel like our partnership enhances the strength of both our brands. We’ve been making headway in terms of product development, and working together again allows us to build on the gains we made last year. I’m excited to test a new fork for Marin this year that will eventually equate to a new frame.”
“This is my fourth season with Spy, and they’re practically family at this point,” Duke added. “They’re supportive in whatever I want to do, and they’re open to my ideas. It’s ideal for an individual program.”
“Nicole is unique amongst our sponsored athletes,” said Marin Bike CEO Matt VanEnkevort. “She’s a wife, a mother and a very gifted athlete. Nicole has an amazing ability to successfully juggle her complex life challenges and remain centered and fast as hell. In our first year together, we were really impressed not only with her results but also with her communication with us, as a sponsor, and with her fans. She also has a wonderful positive attitude. We’re really excited to see what a second year brings.”
Duke’s 20 year career encompasses every discipline of the sport. She began racing cyclocross professionally five years ago with back-to-back third place finishes at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in 2012/2013. The first of her pair of bronze medals earned her a spot on Team USA for the Cyclocross World Championships, where she posted the second best American result in 19th place. While her competitive nature ensures her focus on results, as her professional career comes to a close, Duke is equally invested in the success of others.
“I’m hesitant to officially announce that this is my last season, but it very well could be,” said Duke. “I’m getting older. I’m 40. I have two kids. I’m starting to have problems with racing and training at the level required to be competitive. I’m still hungry for it or I wouldn’t do it, and I want to close out this chapter in a way that makes me feel proud.”
“I’ve started teaching more clinics, and I’m really into helping other people with their objectives and watching them make major improvements,” Duke added. “I feel like I’ve found another way to measure success. Beyond results, a big objective this year is to help others – as a mentor, a source of inspiration, an instructor. I want to get out there and spread the excitement about ‘cross, get more people involved and help those that are already involved improve. Eventually, I would like to use the leverage I have with my partners to create a small development program in the future.”
Duke’s relationship with SRAM has extended the length of her career. In her 20th season with Chicago-based brand, Duke’s Marin Cortina CX Pro will feature the new Force CX-1 group set equipped with HydroR disc brakes. Zipp will provide Duke with Firecrest 303 Carbon Disc wheelsets.
“There was never any question that I would ride SRAM and Zipp again this year,” said Duke. “I’ve been with them going on 20 years, and I’ve always been happy with the way their equipment has performed over the years. I’m especially excited to be back on my HydroR disc brakes this year.”
“We’re proud to continue our nearly 20 year relationship with Nicole, who will continue to ride SRAM, Zipp and Quarq componentry for 2014/15,” said SRAM Road PR & Media Manager Michael Zellman. “She’s an athlete and rider in the purest sense, with a great history of re-inventing herself on two wheels, and currently is one of the fastest cyclocross racers in the US.”
Additional product sponsors include WD-40, Lake Cycling, SDG (Speed Defies Gravity), Clement, Giro, Champion System, Honey Stinger, Handlebar Mustache and Mad Alchemy.
“WD-40 has stepped up their support from last season, and I’m thrilled with their increased involvement,” said Duke. “In addition to product, WD-40’s Chris Bondus will work as my part-time mechanic. SRAM supplies Richard Breininger as my other part-time mechanic. I couldn’t ask for two better guys to look after my bikes and man the pits for me.”
Like most of the professionals, Duke will kick-start her season in CrossVegas, but she won’t be on the bike. She’ll be behind the camera. One week out from CrossVegas, Duke continues to deal with the symptoms of walking pneumonia, leaving her open to commenting with Behind the Barriers TV for the live webcast of what is largely considered the North American cyclocross season opener.
“Obviously I am disappointed with not being able to start the season the way I had intended,” said Duke. “I have worked hard all summer in anticipation of hitting the ground running from the start, but the season is long ,and there are many other ways to be involved in the sport.”
“A slow progression will be my game,” Duke added. “I am hoping to represent my sponsors in many different ways throughout the season as part of my intention of creating a broader career for myself in the industry. I’m truly thankful to still be racing and to have had such a long and successful career in the sport of cycling.”