Women on Bikes Series: Ellen Noble
I am currently racing cyclocross for Aspire Racing, and will be racing my first professional road season with Colavita-Bianchi this spring.
I have spent the past three years climbing the professional mountain bike ranks, but decided to make the switch to the road this season for a change of scenery and to pursue more growth opportunities.
I am a full-time student, studying public health at UMass Amherst's University Without Walls. This amazing program has allowed me to pursue my degree while traveling the world racing my bike! I feel like the luckiest student-athlete in the World!
I am a dog lover, a huge fan of the outdoors, a problem solver, and a wanna-be chef (it's a slow process...)
I grew up riding the rocks and roots in the Maine forests, and began my professional cycling career at just 16. Since then, I have won 5 national titles, 2 Pan-American titles, and am currently leading the u23 World Cup Overall. Most importantly, though, I've continued to fall in love with the sport the longer I race, and have nothing but excitement for the years to come. My goals are lofty and ever-changing, but if there's any message I want to spread to the women of the sport its this: if you believe whole-heartedly in your goals, and chase them with confidence, nothing can stop you!
Tell us about how your #bikelife got started-
I stated riding/racing when I was in kindergarten. My parents were both elite level mountain bike racers, and I wanted to do whatever they were doing. I’ve been extremely competitive and energetic, so cycling was a great way for me to satisfy those needs.
What was your motivation to start competing in cycling on a professional level?
I think because I have been competing for such a long time, it was sort of a natural progression. I’ve wanted to be “professional” since before I really knew what that meant. I knew that I wanted to be racing against the women I had looked up to for so long. I guess that I realized I wanted to race professionally and took the big steps to get on a pro team when I started racing cyclocross. I was 15, and the atmosphere, coupled with huge, competitive women's fields and a knack for CX really pushed me to start taking it seriously. Along the way, there have been so many amazing women that inspired me to race professionally. I looked up to the local elite MTB racers a lot when I was young. This was a little before the internet was as big as it is now, so I didn’t know the big names as well. When I joined the Gary Fisher 29er crew, I started learning that other small women rode big wheeled bikes. I think Willow Koerber was the first pro I really idolized. She was so badass, and so technically gifted. Of course, after that there have been dozens of women that have inspired me in different ways, whether it be due to their professionalism, technical ability, grace, or all around bad-ass-ness. But regardless, I look up to a lot of women and they still inspire me to be pro to this day.
What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
That is such a hard question … I'm not sure if I can even answer that! There are so many good races, across all three disciplines. What makes a good race for me is usually the energy of the crowds along with a good course. Races that have a great turnout with spectators that are exited to be there and cheer are events that go high up on my list! I love competing because it’s always been really natural for me. I love the chance to put all my hard work to the test, and another opportunity to go hard and do my best!
For folks who have yet to attend their first event, what advice would you give them?
I would just say go for it! Cycling is such a fun, inclusive community that you’re bound to have a good time! And don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be upfront that its your first time. Cycling is a small enough sport that people are happy to help out the newbies.
You race in several disciplines: cyclocross, mountain, and road- what do you enjoy and what would be one challenge for each?
I love all three of them because I love racing my bike. It’s actually been tough, because as I get older and take racing more seriously I have to start to focusing a bit more, which means I can’t race all the time. But, I love road because of the community, actually. Since the professional road scene is so crazy, with a lot of travel and waiting around at stage races, there’s a lot of time for the racers to get close. I loved how quickly I felt a part of it when I raced road this past summer.
For mountain, I love how challenging the courses are. Anything goes, and I love being able to challenge myself in a new way every week. For cyclocross, the racing and the spectators, just really the essence of cyclocross all together is what I love about it. I could go on all day about what I love about each discipline. I think with each, the challenge is just managing my expectations. It was hard for me for a long time to trust the process, and realize that not everything would happen overnight.
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
When I was 16, my dad passed away pretty suddenly after a short battle with cancer. I using cycling as my outlet through that time, but there were a lot of down times through the grieving process. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression a bit my whole life, but it was much worse after my dads passing. I am still processing his death in my own way. But with my anxiety, I have just tried to keep myself from thinking bad thoughts. My mantra is “be positive; be present” and that’s helped me a lot.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I’ve been riding mountain bikes for so long, that it came really naturally. I grew up riding in Maine where it’s really rocky and rooty, so that part of cycling has always been easy. Learning to ride behind my saddle on really steep drops and learning to bunny hop were really the two main things I had to figure out as an adult, but both just take practice and confidence. Confidence is key!
You decided to pursue road racing for a change of scenery and growth, tell us why you are excited for this new chapter in your #bikelife-
I’m excited because it’s a new challenge! Mountain biking will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope to go back to it someday. However, the road will be a great chance for me to get faster and learn more about another discipline of cycling. Like I mentioned, the community is amazing so I’m looking forward to that part — it’s something missed in mtb — and it will help me in cyclocross as well.
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love all of it. But I love going outside, having time to be with nature, be along in my thoughts and just be present. I love that cycling has allowed me to travel the world. It help me be confident, and I think that’s pretty special. Not a lot of young women have been fortunate enough to find something that makes them feel confident. I hope everyone finds that someday.
Tell us what you would consider your biggest challenge with being a professional racer-
I think being away from my family a lot has been challenging. I love racing, and I have a pretty good grasp on the concept that if there is an issue in my race, I will fix it. But the one thing I haven’t been able to fix yet is the time I spend away from home. I would love for my family to be able to travel with my every now and then, especially since I’m always away for the holidays. That said, the time I do spend with my family is always quality. So I am surviving :)
With pursuing a racing career, what would you say has been your most fulfilling accomplishment?
For me, there have been two moments that felt like my most fulfilling moments.
First, when I signed with Aspire racing last February. It was such a huge accomplishment, and something I had dreamt of for many years. To finally make that step and be a full-fledged professional racer was one of the most exciting moments for me.
Second, getting a medal at Worlds was for sure the most exciting result of my career. It was a breakthrough ride, and it felt like all the hard work from myself and my amazing team and support village had really paid off.
What would you like everyone to know about pro racing in the cycling world? What would you like to see change?
The first thing that pops into my mind when I see this question that I hope people being to understand (and this would also be a good change) is that pros are just regular people! I mean this is both a positive and a negative sense. In one regard, I’d love to see more fans and amateur racers interacting with pro racers. We’re just normal people, so don’t be afraid to talk to us! On the other hand, I want people to understand that, like regular humans, we are not immune to hurtful comments or heckles. I see what mean stuff people write about me online. I hear people make fun of me while I race. I know other pros feel the same. So in both regards, I hope people start to have a better understanding that pro racers are just regular people!
What do you feel could happen locally and/or industry-wise to increase the involvement of women in cycling and/or the industry?
I think a lot of what is happening now is actually a great step. I think it’s just going to take time to see a change. I think the unfortunate mentality is that people often expect an instantaneous response. If a promoter offers equal pay out one year, and not a lot of women show up, then they’ll stop offering equal payout! However, it takes a while for things like this to catch on. So I think one of the best things that could be done right now is for people to just keep doing what they’re doing. As I’ve said a lot about growing the sport: if you build it, they will come.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Really, it just boils down to realizing how much cycling has done for me in my life. I want other girls
to have that opportunity as well. I know that a lot of who I am today is because of cycling. I want to share these amazing life experiences with other women, and hopefully I can serve, in some small way, as a person who pushed them into a great life choice.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am obsessed with curry!!!!! My favorite meal, and favorite ingredient. If I see something with curry in it — I’ll buy it. I could eat a red curry dish for every meal, I swear.