Ellen Noble of Kennebunkport loves to cycle.
She has been riding and racing bicycles almost as long as she can remember. She started at an early age, tagging along with her parents. Her first competition was at the age of 5 – at a mountain bike race in Biddeford. Noble doesn’t recall how she did in that race, but she does remember how much fun it was.
“I probably won. There were not many girls racing at the age of 5 then,” said Noble, laughing.
Now 18, Noble, who graduated from the Kennebunk High School in June, won the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals Junior Championship in Wisconsin in 2013 for women in the 17-18 year old category. In 2014 Noble is ranked 12th nationally among professionals in the sport.
What exactly is cyclocross? Noble said it is a mix of mountain biking and road racing.
“My bike looks like a road bike with dropped handlebars and skinny tires but we race mainly on a dirt track with barriers and obstacles,” she said. “It’s like the steeplechase of bicycle racing.”
When riders encounter barriers they are forced to dismount, pick up their bikes and carry them over whatever blocks the course. Depending on track and weather conditions races can become a muddy mess, requiring not only speed and stamina but also good balance.
Noble competes from late August until February in cyclocross and in mountain bike and road races the rest of the year. Noble likes all types of racing but is keen on cyclocross.
“Cyclocross is a better spectator sport and has a much more fun atmosphere,” she said. “I enjoy this division (of racing) the most.”
Noble said she trains year round, seven days a week, to stay in shape for her sport. Her routine changes from day to day.
“The time and distance I train varies,” said Noble. “Sometimes I train four hours a day, four days a week and some weeks the time is shorter but with more intensity. But I ride every day, sometimes with friends.”
Riding competitively takes dedication, according to Noble. While almost anyone can learn to ride a bicycle, which is fun and good exercise, not everyone will be up for the challenge of racing. Noble said racing also takes self-motivation.
“Even though I ride for a team, there is no team practice,” she said. “You have to be willing to get up at 5 a.m. and go out on a 3- or 4-hour ride sometimes. You have to have the desire and the motivation.”
Noble said she also pays attention to her body, including what she does – and doesn’t – eat or drink.
“It’s a clean lifestyle,” she said.
Dedicating so much time to training has had an impact on Noble’s high school experience. While she enjoyed being at Kennebunk High, her sport took up a considerable amount of time.
“Racing is a lot of work. It’s been a big sacrifice for me through high school, pulling me away from (school-related) activities because I have to stay focused on training,” said Noble, which leaves little time for parties or socializing.
But Noble wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The sport pulls in a good crowd of people who are like a second family to me. I love it, racing and riding. I have loved it since I was a little girl,” said Noble, who added with a laugh, “I’m super competitive, and it’s a super competitive sport. I give 100 percent.”
Noble was scheduled to participate in the Dempsey Challenge at the end of September. She was asked to ride by the organization, which, she said, means a lot to her personally.
“Coming from Maine, the Dempsey Challenge has been something I have admired but have never done,” said Noble. “So being invited as an honored guest means so much, and of course fundraising for a cause like cancer that has so closely affected my family and friends families just made it an obvious yes when asked whether I wanted to attend.”
Noble will also continue to race while she attends University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she is a freshman. She has been training with a new team based out of Northampton, Mass., the JAM Fund Cycling Team. She will also participate in collegiate racing at the university but, she said, “racing for JAM will come first. We have a very busy schedule, but I hope to at least ride with the collegiate UMass team a lot and of course compete for them at collegiate cyclocross nationals this January in Texas.”
And although she plans to become a full-time professional, she wants to complete college first.
“I absolutely plan to go pro once I graduate,” said Noble. “I didn’t want to put college off though. Right now I can’t dedicate all my time to racing, which I will do when I’m a full-time pro.”
But no matter what level she is at, Noble is sure that cycling will always be important in her life.
“For me riding has been always been a part of my life,” she said. “And it always will be. Even when you’re feeling bad you can go out for a ride and come back with a clear head and a new perspective.”
Maine Women October 2014Ellen Noble of Kennebunkport won the national junior championship in cyclocross last year. Earning a degree at UMass Amherst and then turning pro is Ellen Noble’s hope for the future. Cyclocross racing includes obstacles and barriers, which competitors have to navigate.