By Jared Eborn
You want to talk about pre-race motivation?
Nicole Duke found her muse.
Riding without a professional contract and contemplating a season away from the top-level cyclocross races she’s used to competing in.
But when Raleigh-Clement Cycling sponsored a mid-summer cyclocross race at Deer Valley on July 24 in conjunction with the DealerCamp bicycle trade show, Duke booked a flight to Utah and lined up in a very competitive field.
Why? A $15,000 contract with Raleigh-Clement was on the line for the winner.
“I didn’t know if I’d be racing this year,” Duke said, after smoking the field on a very rough and challenging course at Deer Valley. “But I thought I’d give it a shot. It was an opportunity I felt like I had to take a chance at.”
Leading from the start, Duke didn’t let off the gas until she hit the finishing straight – realizing she had earned that pro contract which would allow her to compete on a high level.
“It was tough, it was bumpy,” Duke said to cycling media gathered at Deer Valley for DealerCamp. “It was a shock to the system to have a race this early.”
Utah’s Kathy Sherwin was part of a three-woman chase group, along with Caroline Mani and Kari Studley, trying to track down Duke but the contract was too much motivation to deny.
On the men’s side, a start-packed field gave the crowd at the tradeshow plenty of fireworks on one of Utah’s biggest holidays.
Ryan Trebon overpowered Tim Johnson, Jonathan Page, Ben Berden and Allen Krughoff to take the win as he launched an impressive attack on the fourth lap and pulled away from Johnson for the victory.
The men also had a professional contract to race for and after the offered filtered through the results and already-signed racers, Krughoff was given the contract offer which he happily accepted.
Page, a new Utah resident and riding without a primary sponsor for the 2012 season, reportedly had the option to take the contract but Raleigh-Clement and Krughoff eventually came to an agreement.
The event capped off the first day of DealerCamp and proved a welcome, albeit extremely early, opportunity to shake the dust off some knobby tires and feel some pain.
The course was rough, rocky and challenging. With loose sharp rocks, tight turns after barrier dismounts and a tricky downhill turns from pavement to loose dirt with a bit of a air-inducing transition curbs, the circuit left racers gasping for breath.
Or, maybe, the 7,000 feet of elevation had something to do with that.
Regardless, the oddly-timed cyclocross race was a hit in most regards. With four start times and six fields, the action was relentless and a built-in spectator base created some excitement, good-natured heckling and left cross racers anxious for fall and winter to arrive.