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Nicole Duke nets third Colorado State Cyclocross Championship and Kristin Weber claims Cross Cup

December 17, 2012
Nicole Duke with her son and daughter pre-race

Nicole Duke with her son and daughter pre-race

Athletes and moms have a lot in common. One sacrifices for sport; the other, for the well-being of little humans. They both juggle schedules, exercise, the niggling details of daily life, and the need to sleep.

Many women who rode Sunday’s Colorado State Cyclocross Championship open race are moms as well as athletes, including the winner, Nicole Duke (Alchemy Bicycle Company). When the two vocations merge, it’s a powerful combination, one that creates an inner reserve of strength a woman isn’t aware of until she’s compelled to call on it.

A former World Cup mountain biker and third place finisher at last year’s cyclocross national championships, Duke arrived Sunday as a two-time Colorado cyclocross champion, having won in 2011 and 2010. So she warmed-up on the dry course as a clear favorite, but she wasn’t convinced she’d make it three in a row. When asked how she felt, she replied, “I wish I could say absolutely great but I’ve had a hard couple of weeks. My kids were really sick this week, both of them. The past three nights we haven’t really slept.”

Two nights ago Duke slept on the floor. Her son was so sick she decided to take him into her bed. He moaned and thrashed around so much she shifted to the floor. There she’d still be close enough if he needed her. And maybe she’d sleep some. Her two children are four and seven years-old.

“It’s hard to do it all, but I manage,” she said, as the conversation circled around being a mom. “Sometimes it works out really well where everything kind of flows and the kids are great, I can train, and I have a good rhythm. But this year, no rhythm whatsoever.”

Then she described her approach to the day’s state championship race: “I’m just going to take it how it comes.”

Kristin Weber chasing in lap 2 to keep her Colorado Cross Cup lead, at 2012 States

Kristin Weber chasing in lap 2 to keep her Colorado Cross Cup lead, at 2012 States

In another parking lot near the start line, local racer Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) also prepared for the women’s open race. Like Duke, her children had traveled to the race with her.

The state championship is the last chance to gain points in the state cycling association’s season-long cyclocross contest, the Colorado Cross Cup. Weber held the lead in the women’s open category and hoped to end the day as the 2012 Cross Cup champion. She didn’t realize she led that competition until two weeks prior when her husband shared the news.

“I have so much going on with the rest of my life that I didn’t really pay attention to that…I have the kids and my work…it occupies my brain very much to have all those things going on.” Weber works full time at her graphic design business, Sugar Design.

Earlier in the morning Amanda Miller and Georgia Gould, who had pre-registered for the state championship race, decided not to take the start. This meant Weber had to shift her strategy to defend the Cross Cup; she needed to place higher than she previously thought. The absence of the two pros gifted other local riders in contention for that prize with the opportunity to gain more points if they placed ahead of Weber.

The Boulder Cycle Sport rider and mother of three sounded like she had quickly adjusted to that wrinkle in her plans. “I’ve been having some good races the past couple of weekends, so I feel like anything can happen today,” she said. “I’m just hoping to ride really smoothly and that’s sort of the mantra I keep in my head, and to relax because that’s when I do my best.” During her first full cyclocross season in 2010 Weber became the women’s 35+ Colorado state cyclocross champion.

Front row support, women's open race line-up for 2012 Colorado State Cyclocross Championships

Front row support, women’s open race line-up for 2012 Colorado State Cyclocross Championships

Race action

As Weber, Duke, and Meredith Miller of California Giant Berry Farms / Specialized together with thirty other women lined up to begin the forty minutes of hypoxia that would decide the new 2013 Colorado state champion, an official drew their attention. The first rider to the top of the run-up – a steep hill of loose, dry soil inches deep with a mini-cliff at the very top – would receive a $135 prize. Murmurs rose out of the field with that announcement, and Duke later said the prize provided extra motivation.

After the start whistle Duke led the field to the first turn. Her aggressive cornering – she tilted her bike so far on edge her knee nearly scraped the pavement – opened a gap to next in line Miller. Karen Hogan (Team Kappius), Kristal Bonai (Rapid Racing), and Weber followed.

Now on course, Duke found the rhythm that had been napping inside of her.

Nicole Duke on the Colorado state championship course run-up at Cross of the North

Nicole Duke on the Colorado state championship course run-up at Cross of the North

On the opposite side of the hill from the run-up and more than half-way through the first lap, Duke led Miller by fifteen seconds. Eight seconds later Hogan pursued alone, though Bonai kept her close. Weber held fifth. Duke claimed the $135 run-up prize.

The top four in the first lap would finish in the same positions. Weber lost a place or two early on, experiencing some difficulty riding through a tight turn that had been added after Saturday’s racing, just before the run-up. She called riding that turn the second time through a mistake; by lap three she realized she could make better time by running through it.

Duke had stretched her lead to about thirty-five seconds as she tackled the run-up for the second time. The expression on Miller’s face appeared to be one of resignation to second. Eight minutes later in lap three race announcer Larry Grossman said, “I think if we put square wheels on Nicole Duke’s bike right now she’d still win.”

Judy Freeman ahead of Rebecca Gross in turn before the run-up at States

Judy Freeman ahead of Rebecca Gross in turn before the run-up at States

Miller continued to hold off Hogan, gaining time during the final laps. Bonai continued her strong ride in fourth. Behind Bonai, Rebecca Gross (Tough Girl Cycling) and Judy Freeman fought for fifth, a battle Freeman won by the end of the race.

Melissa Barker (GS Boulder / The Trek Store), who gained position over Weber during the first lap, earned seventh. Kate Powlison (Panache Cyclewear – Horizon Organic), the recent overall winner of the Boulder Cyclocross Series, moved up during the race and threatened Weber’s place.

But Weber held on to finish in front of Powlison for eighth, high enough to maintain her grasp on the Colorado Cross Cup.

Karen Hogan claims third place at 2012 Colorado State Cyclocross Championships

Karen Hogan claims third place at 2012 Colorado State Cyclocross Championships

After the race Weber called her Cross Cup victory “icing on the cake.” The third place performance by local racer Hogan seemed to captivate her more. “Karen Hogan getting third is outstanding. She is an inspiration to me as a fellow mom of three,” Weber said. Hogan, whose cyclocross racing age is 48, entered the race following a winning streak at local events.

When asked if she had expected to finish as well as third, Hogan replied emphatically, “No. Not at all…I’m really happy with third with this group. So a good day for me. I felt good. The course was awesome. Great equipment. My mechanic (husband Mike Hogan) was awesome.”

The new champion Duke also described her race. “I thought I wasn’t feeling well, but when I took off and realized I was gaining a lot in every corner, I realized it was my course. I was able to really carry my speed through all the corners and it was pretty technical. There was some good rest for me which I typically need because I’m more of a burst rider and it just suited me and I realized I had that and I just kept ticking it off, every corner trying to gain a few more seconds.”

At the podium presentation Duke wore her third state cyclocross champion jersey vest proudly. Her daughter looked on, a front row fan.

Nicole Duke becomes three-time Colorado State Cyclocross Champion

Nicole Duke becomes three-time Colorado State Cyclocross Champion

2012 Colorado State Cyclocross Championships, women’s open race top ten

1 Nicole Duke, Alchemy Bicycle Company 40:35
2 Meredith Miller, Cal Giant Berry Farms / Specialized 41:21
3 Karen Hogan, Team Kappius 41:47
4 Kristal Boni, Rapid Racing 42:05
5 Judy Freeman 42:07
6 Rebecca Gross, Tough Girl Cycling 42:23
7 Melissa Barker, GS Boulder / The Trek Store 43:22
8 Kristin Weber, Boulder Cycle Sport 43:35
9 Kate Powlison, Panache Cyclewear 43:43
10 Ksenia Lepikhina, Boulder Jr. Cycling 43:46

xxx

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