When duty calls: soldier-cyclist trains in Iraq

Nicole Shue

Nicole Shue (Image credit: Nicole Shue)

Many of the women competing at a high level in cycling have full-time careers, but in the case of a few special riders, those careers offer very unique challenges. For a few, their jobs include serving in the United States military in Iraq. Surface Warfare Officer for the US Navy and Velo Bella racer Nicole Shue spoke with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins about her life on the bike while at sea.

The Velo Bella team is a diverse group of women from across the United States. With riders from beginner to world class, the team has fun while taking racing seriously. It's a perfect environment for some special athletes like Nicole Shue and Nicole Messinger, who both work in the US Navy, and with Rebecca Gross and Beth Boyer, who work for the US Air Force. Team manager Alex Burgess regards the careers of these women cyclists as nothing short of heroic.

All of them are currently serving in the US military and have been relocated to Iraq, and Burgess thinks they have courageous stories that need to be shared. "The fact that these women split their lives amongst their family and careers as officers while continuing to achieve to be elite level athletes is a statement on their ability and talent," said Burgess.

Surface Warfare Officer Nicole Shue is a just one of several Velo Bella cyclists who balances the life of an athlete with a career in the US Navy. Shue is out to sea nearly half of every month and though she finds it difficult to train full time, being attached to a ship, she noted that her chain of command is supportive of her passion as a cyclist.

Shue admitted that officers are nurtured to have type-A personalities, a competitive personality that translates well into cycling. "We are extremely organized, methodical and display a strict execution of schedules, plans and missions," explained Shue who tapped into these qualities when training for her latest Ironman.

When long work days start in the early morning, finding training time is very precious for anyone, let alone someone living on a ship, but Shue found a way to fit training into her life at sea with limited resources. "I received a lot of strange looks when I first brought my bike and trainer aboard the ship. I would set up my bike on the flight deck of the ship during dinnertime, and ride with the sun setting behind the ocean as my scenery."

Read the full feature here.

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