Breakout Cross

3 Nov

Crossing the line for third

I’ve always said “been there, done that”.  So what am I doing here again?

I had my time, back in the late 90’s- the heyday of mountainbiking, as a Downhill, Dual Slalom racing brat.   That, I probably was, I was young, naive, and thought the world owed it to me.   But, I was living the dream, seeing the world, and riding my bike for a living while all my other friends worked or schooled the 9 to 5.  2000 was my last year, I was beat and broken, tired of the stress and just waiting for the next broken bone or surgery.  I had broken my neck, pelvis, fingers, ankle, shoulders,  had two knee surgeries, numerous concussions, and had enough of the mental anguish.  I retired, knowing I had a great run.  I had factory rides and had been a consistent top 5 finisher in slalom and top 10 in downhill.

Back in the day, Deer Valley NORBA National Slalom

So ten years have passed I’ve had a career as a hairstylist (art and fashion are a passion), gotten married and had two children.  After retiring, I didn’t ride for two years.  I was blown out on the bike and wanted to do everything I wasn’t able to do while racing.  Slowly, it started to come back.  The time on the motorcycle in the dirt wasn’t enough, I wanted to peddle again.  So I started riding enough to be able to enjoy myself and keep up with my friends, most of them pros or ex-pros.   In 2007, after the birth of my son Ryder in 2005,   I decided to give a cross race a go.  It was perfect, only 45 minutes of fast pace racing through semi-technical terrain.   My first race was in a local women’s open class and I ended up third.  The next day I headed to see my friend Brandon Dwight at Boulder Cycle Sport and he handed me a jersey and set me up with a great deal on a legit cross bike.  2007 was a great season filled with lots of lessons and even more fun.  I was ready to improve and be more serious for 2008.

Ooops, I’m pregnant again.  2008 on the bike will have to wait.

On October 30th 2008 my baby girl, Canin is born.

2009, and I am not sure I will even race.  I don’t have a bike and haven’t really been training.  My husband surprises me with a beautiful Ridley X-Fire, and a Gear Movement skinsuit the week before the first race.  ok, here we go again.  The season went well with 3rd at State Championships, and 3rd at Nationals in my age group 35-39.  oh God, really?  That can’t be my age.  I’m an old washed up Mama but I’m having a blast!  The Cross crew are a tight-knit group of passionate weekend warriors and I’m in.

Hudz-Vista Subaru Team showed up on the scene in 2009 and for 2010 I thought we would be a good match.  I had a chat with team directors Lance Johnson and Chuck Coyle and we decided to give it a go.  At the same time I had started competing in a new sport, Downriver Stand-Up Paddleboarding. A second place at Nationals, second at Teva Games, and some first descents had sealed my spot in the sport.  I signed with a leading board manufacturer, Boardworks, and  began spreading the SUP love to others around me.  I began instructing for Mountain Paddle Surf and teaching fitness classes on the board.

Testing the waters at the Boulder Creek Kayak Park

My new love was getting in the way of my steady, cycling.  I basically took the summer off from the bike but gained major core fitness from the board.  August rolled around and I was nervous.  I had signed on contract with Hudz and knew there was some expectation.

Hanging with the C4 race crew after our podium

August.  I start using my two mornings a week, (it’s all I have without the kids) and focusing on solid rides.  I am nervous that I won’t be ready.  My good friend and riding partner Margell Abel tells me she is going to do the Steamboat Stage Race to get ready for the season and I decide that’s what I need.  Having only done one road race in my life I knew I was in for a beating, but it’s what I need.  It was the hardest race I’ve ever done.  Almost 10,000 ft of climbing at altitude in crazy winds.  I suffered but felt better as the days went on.  I thought, if this hasn’t done it nothing will.

The first race of the season rolls around and I am stoked with my new team and beautiful X-Night Ridley in shining armor.  I can’t believe I am actually sponsored by my dream bike company!  My body has absorbed the stage race and I am surprised to find myself in competitive shape.  I am leading the local races but can’t help but wonder how I will measure up to the big girls on the National scene.  The Derby Cup in Louisville, KY is my first test.  Two 7th place finishes and Most Aggressive Rider Award are a surprise for me and others as far a I can tell by the announcers comments.  Really? I’m here again,  I am actually competitive on a National level?  Tired and worn, I return home to find I can’t even muster up the strength to train the next week.  Kids and family are enough let alone trying to train to stay at level.

My Facebook status reads, “5 days off, will the engine still run?”.  I warm up Friday evening after the hubbie gets home from work and hope it is enough for the biggest cross race weekend of my life.  The Boulder Cup and Colorado Cross Classic is a UCI category 1 and 2 race weekend.  All the toughest racers in the nation and Canada will be here.  Family, friends, come out to cheer and you can’t help but feel the local pressure.  I am just hoping to show in the top 10.

The rest, I can’t believe.  At the Colorado Classic I find myself behind two of the sports greats: Katie Compton and Georgia Gould.  Then I’m in no mans land, but still in third!  I can’t believe it.  Do I really belong here? what is going on?  “Just hold your shit together Nicole,” is what I tell myself.

The filling in a Katie, Georgia sandwich

I can hear Greg Keller, always my sideline coach, yelling “sprint out of the barriers, head up!!”.  I listen and focus, I must keep the powerhouse Meredeth Miller behind me. Last lap and I’ve done it.  Third. Podium!

I am excited for myself but am also happy I have done it for Boulder, my sponsors (Hudz, Vista Subaru, Wenger, Zeal Optics, SRAM, Reynolds, Ridley, TRP, Vittoria, Excel Sports Boulder, The Gear Movement, Kep’s Pollen Balls, Curve, Oskar Blues, Rotor, Fizik, Rocky Mounts, Lazer Helmets, The Organic Mechanics, Recofit Sports,and Cross Vegas), my family, and all the Moms around the world who struggle to do it all.  It is my little girl’s 2nd Birthday and I can’t wait to show her on the podium!  I am ecstatic to share the podium with Katie and Georgia.

On the podium with Canin for her Birthday!

The next day, Boulder Cup.  Now I can feel the pressure–can she do it again? Was it just a fluke?

The course is slippery and fitness oriented.  To make it short and sweet, 3rd again and I have sealed my fate for the weekend.  Now back to the house where 30 people are waiting for me to host our Halloween/trick-or-treat party.  Life as a Mom, wife, friend, hairstylist, and athlete never slows.  It’s kind of like a cross race, go go go, get off then back on, fall down, get back up, go go go. Wait, but where’s the finish line?

So I find myself here again, a competitive cyclist and Stand-Up Paddleboarder.  BUT, with a whole new perspective.  I now have age and experience on my side and I am thankful for all that I have.  So I will just do what I do and can only hope that I have done enough to do it well with integrity and poise.

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5 Responses to “Breakout Cross”

  1. Maria November 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    You go girl!! Truly inspired reading your story. So proud of you for all that you DO and all that you are!

  2. kiki November 7, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    you are truly inspiring nicole! loved reading this…you ROCK, sistah!

  3. mamaxsix June 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Just getting into ‘cross myself. (I’m still bike shopping….) This will be the first major sport I’ve done since HS and dogmushing in Alaska. I live in MN with my family now, looked into it a few years ago, but got pregnant with baby #5, and then #6! But I’m ready now, and your story is 100% inspiring. Thank-you for sharing. It’s nice to know that I can be a wife, mom, mary kay beauty consultant AND ‘cross racer 🙂 (and not one of the younger ones either 😉 Good luck!!

    • supwithnicoleduke July 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

      Hey Mamasix! You made my day with your comments.
      So glad i can inspire, its my goal! Happy to hear that cross will be your choice for re-entry into the competitive sports world, it will not disappoint! Feel free to email with any questions you have, would love to help you along. As far as i am concerned you are superwoman, six kids…amazing!

      • mamaxsix July 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

        Wow, thanks! They sure do keep me busy, and there is never a dull moment! I’m jazzed about ‘cross season, just need to meet some ladies and get to training. (i’m currently working on both…) can’t wait to watch you kill it this season!

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