Nicole Duke at the National Championships in Bend. ©Tim Westmore

Nicole Duke at the National Championships in Bend. ©Tim Westmore

When we recently posted that Christian Heule had joined the crew, we also mentioned that Stu Thorne, who runs the team and owns, alluded to the possibility of signing another woman to join Kaitlin Antonneau. Well, we’ve just learned that Nicole Duke is that new addition.

Duke is coming off of a breakthrough cyclocross season while riding for the Hudz-Subaru team, and she wrapped it up with a sixth place finish in the Elite field and a championship title in the Masters 35-39 field at Nationals in December. Duke has made it clear, however, that her sites are firmly fixed at the top end of the sport, and she hopes to earn a berth on the World Championship team this coming season.

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The Cannondale prepared by Professional Cyclocross Team has added the final piece to its puzzle, adding Masters National Champion Nicole Duke to the team. After a breakout season in 2010, Duke will eye continued domestic success, while also dipping her toe in international waters.

Duke, A Florida native, born in Boulder, Colorado, joins Swiss National Champion Christian Heule as Cannondale prepared by Cyclocrossworld’s off-season signings. The duo joins six-time National Champion Tim Johnson, Jamey Driscoll and reigning U23 Women’s National Champion Kaitlin Antonneau on the team’s five-rider roster.

Nicole Duke opened eyes at last year’s Derby City Cup, after being awarded the SRAM Most Aggressive Rider award. After a strong and consistent campaign, including podiums at the Colorado Cross Classic, Boulder Cup and all three days of the Jingle Cross Rock weekend, Duke’s season culminated in a set of stars and stripes in the Master Womens 35-39 category at the National Championships in Bend, Oregon.

The following day, Duke spent her day fighting for the bronze medal in the Elite Women’s category against fresher competition. Ultimately, Duke notched a sixth place finish that drew to a close a wildly successful season. Despite her achievements in 2010, Duke will not rest on her laurels, and she has set a lofty goal for her debut season with Cannondale prepared by

“After seeing what I could do last year on what little effort I put in, I figured that maybe this was going to be the second half of my career,” said Duke, a former professional downhiller. “I decided that, since I had enjoyed my year so much last year, I would put a big effort into it this year. I wanted to join a bigger team and really put all of my mental and physical energy into it. Last season, everyone saw me as a breakout rider, but this season I’m really going to try to prove myself and my potential.”

Duke has set her season up in order to take a run at representing the United States in January’s World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium. In order to best prepare for the World Championships, Nicole will take a mid-season trip to the Czech Republic to tackle back-to-back World Cups in Plzen and Tabor. For Duke, it will be her first venture into international cycling since her departure from professional downhill racing in her 20s.

“I’m going to go do a couple of World Cups and try to qualify for the World Championships team. That’s going to be one of the highlights of my season. I feel that I’m a better technical rider than anything, and from what I’ve heard, the courses over in Europe are much more technical. I’ve heard from other girls on the circuit that sometimes riders can be afraid of some of the courses in Europe. For me, when people say they’re afraid of a course, thats when I’m going to shine. That comes from my downhill background.”

As a member of Cannondale prepared by, Duke will be surrounded by riders who have plenty of European experience. Tim Johnson, Christian Heule and Jamey Driscoll have all been European regulars over the last few seasons, while Antonneau got her first international call up last season. The opportunity to learn the European style of racing was just one attractive aspect of the new team.

The biggest attraction for Nicole Duke, however, was the unparalleled level of support she will receive this season. For a mother of two, who is unabashedly family first, Duke points out that it is a perfect situation to only have to worry about racing.

“I had seen how the team was run throughout the season, and I noticed that they ran a really tight ship. They had a great dynamic between the mechanics and racers. I just loved the feel with the team and loved the way things ran. I’ve always been a fan of the Cannondale bikes. When I was first getting into cycling, my first bike was a Cannondale, so to be on Cannondales is kind of a dream come true. Anyone would dream of being on a team that is this well run and well equipped.”

While Duke does not have to spend as much time planning for her season, she can direct her extra free time to her family. Duke is married to her husband Ben and has a five year old son, Ryder, and a two year old daughter, Canin.

“The extra support definitely eases some of the burden on my family. My husband won’t have to worry so much about my mechanic work,” joked Duke. “To know that I can go out there and race and not worry about anything else is just such a gift.”

Further, Duke can also take the opportunity with Cannondale prepared by to act as a mentor. Duke is keenly aware of the intimidating world that young cyclists, especially young women cyclists, can face. Duke feels that she can lend a lot to young standout, and U23 Women’s National Champion, Kaitlin Antonneau.

“At this point in my career, I’m looking to mentor younger riders and help them along the way. When I started racing, I was really young, and I wish I had had someone there for me and to guide me. I know what it feels like to be young and talented but not really to know what you’re doing and what’s going on. I definitely want to take on that kind of role.”

The addition of Nicole Duke bolsters an already strong Cannondale prepared by team that should be fighting for every podium across the season. With the summer signing done, the team will focus on its pre-season preparations for what they hope will be its most successful season to date.