BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — After a series of health issues and an acrimonious split with her Raleigh-Clement team, American cyclocross racer Nicole Duke has put her 2012-13 season on hiatus.
A former World Cup downhill and dual-slalom mountain bike racer, Duke had her best cyclocross season to date last year racing for Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, finishing second overall in the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series and third at the U.S. national championships.
However, during the first half of the 2012-13 cyclocross season the 38-year-old Boulder resident has struggled with setbacks off the bike, including a change in teams — her contract with Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com was not renewed — as well as a divorce, low iron levels, a tooth infection, and finally, an unexpected split with her new Raleigh-Clement team.
On Friday, Duke posted to her Facebook wall that she would not be racing “for the foreseeable future.”
“Health and other circumstances are preventing me from continuing at this moment,” she wrote. “My heart is very heavy but I still have the fire inside to come back with a vengeance. I am lucky to have two amazing children and an incredible man in my life. I will focus on this. I want to thank all that have supported me along the way and wish all my peers on the track a successful season. Peace.”
Duke, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, told VeloNews that low iron levels had interfered with her performances during the first half of the season, and that, more recently, she’d had a rocky split with Raleigh-Clement team manager Donn Kellogg following last weekend’s Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival.
Duke was reticent to discuss details of her split from the team, saying only that it was “upsetting,” that she was “heartbroken,” and that she hoped “to have a comeback” in the coming months. Her boyfriend, Belgian Ben Berden, continues to race for Raleigh-Clement, placing fifth and second on Saturday and Sunday during the USGP Derby City Cup in Louisville, Kentucky.
Duke earned a spot on the Raleigh-Clement team in July after winning the Midsummer Nights Cyclocross at DealerCamp in Park City, Utah.
According to a July 17 press release posted on the Clement web site, the top rider without a pro contract in the elite men’s and women’s Midsummer Nights fields earned “a fully supported position on the team,” including backing for the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series and the Cross After Dark series, as well as a number of other events.
Duke won the women’s race, while Allen Krughoff, also from Boulder, won the men’s race.
Following her dismissal from the team, Duke told VeloNews that Kellogg, Clement’s brand manager, had never provided her with a contract.
Kellogg told VeloNews that Duke was released from the team based upon “behavior towards the other riders and staff, after being warned.” He added that neither Duke nor Krughoff were issued actual contracts.
“The position (Duke) held with the team was a non-contract, non-paid position, hence no contract,” Kellogg wrote via email. “The paid professionals on the team, Ben Berden and Caroline Mani, have detailed contracts in place, which include wording on code of conduct.
“The original offer per the Midsummer Champion offer was for expenses to the USGP series and Cross After Dark series. We went beyond that offer in all aspects, expense, logistics, staffing and equipment for Nicole so to include all C1-C2 events as well as paying for an international plane ticket for her to attend a series of World Cups events, which were canceled and then rescheduled to the December-January events per her request. We have kept this ticket in place.
“We offered a bicycle as an additional part of the Midsummer package along with the use of two other bicycles in the off-season, providing she was in good standing with the team. Obviously, this has been rescinded.”
Kellogg explained that a non-refundable round-trip ticket to Europe for Duke was purchased prior to her release, and is still available for her use. He added that he wishes Duke “all the best,” adding that the team “would like to not aggravate the situation as all parties involved are quite upset and dismayed at the situation.”
Duke said she hopes to be able to continue the season at the final USGP in Bend, Oregon, followed by the December-January trip to Europe and U.S. nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, in January. Along the way, she hopes to earn a spot on the U.S. national team for the world cyclocross championships, held in Louisville in early February.
Her top international results last year included 14th at the 2011 World Cup in Plzen, Czech Republic, and 19th at the 2012 world championship in Koksijde, Belgium.
However, Duke said she is now without bikes or financial support for the remainder of the season.
“I have to finish off the season, even if it’s on my own,” Duke said.
In an October 1 blog post titled “Caged Animal,” Duke alluded to her struggles this year, writing: “The beginning of my season, has not been my typical. Usually, I show to the line happy-go-lucky, relaxed and ready for whatever is to come…. ‘usually’ because I am blessed with good races, void of drama. This year, different story. They say roll with the punches, well, I’ve been rolling for a while. This past summer has been a challenge, dealing with divorce, moving, broken bones, broken hearts, kids, finding a team, etc. I could go on and on about the challenges, but we all have our own.”