Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass sophomore places sixth in Cyclo-Cross World Championships

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Flowizm/Flickr)

(Flowizm/Flickr)

Ellen Noble remembers the rush and excitement of crossing the finish line, knowing she held off a number of competitors and had the support of the crowd.

Noble, a sophomore public health major at the University of Massachusetts, competed in the Cyclo-Cross World Championship held in Zolder, Belgium last month. She finished sixth in the under-23 women’s division, which was created only last year.

It was, as she calls it, a “beautiful feeling.”

“Coming across just felt amazing,” she said. “Seeing people waving American flags on the finish line and everyone screaming and everyone excited felt really good … When I turned on to that finishing straight I was like ‘oh my gosh, I held them off.’”

Noble specializes in a vein of cycling called cyclo-cross, which is a form of bicycle racing that requires riders to sometimes dismount, pick up and carry their bike around obstacles. According to Noble, cycling is an umbrella term that has different disciplines within it.

Noble says she races on a road-style bike, but races on cross country mountain bike tracks, which involves varying terrain and plenty of mud, roots and rocks. It involves a certain amount of running – Noble says she’ll run for a couple of minutes up small hills and around barriers – before getting back on the bike to complete a lap.

“I’ve always been a pretty strong runner and cyclist,” Noble said. “So for me, finding this discipline between being a runner and a cyclist is perfect.”

She knew right away cyclo-cross was all she wanted to do.

“I loved it immediately,” she said. “Actually, my first cross race was out here in Northampton, so it’s funny to be living out here now.”

Both of Noble’s parents were cyclists, and she began racing herself by the age of five. When she was seven, she started racing in amateur races with adults. By the time she was 16, she was racing professionally.

Noble said she owes a lot of her success to the team she trains and races with based out of Northampton called Jam Fund Cycling. And while she believes the racing in New England is the best in the United States, she noted the European cycling community puts America’s “to shame.”

According to Noble, there were 80,000 spectators at the World Championships, which she qualified for by winning the United States national championship prior this year.

Noble utilized the summer to train, spending five to six hours a day riding. She said she tapered off her riding as the school year began but gradually returned to riding 13 to 14 miles per week. She said the two months prior to the race were important for her preparation.

As the event drew closer, she studied the course. Noble said there was a preview window to study the course – “I knew every inch of the course – “and that it was wide, offering different routes to take past the obstacles. She said she knew the fastest approach for each section, had her lines dialed and even knew her tire pressure in advance.

But she couldn’t control the weather.

“We get to the start line and like some weird twist of fate, the skies just opened up and it was pouring rain,” Noble said. “The course actually just flooded. It completely changed everything but that’s just how cyclo-cross is, especially when you’re racing in the winter. Anything could happen.

“We just had to roll with the punches and you have to readjust your lines.”

Despite the conditions, Noble managed to race out to second place during the first half lap, according to the Jam Fund’s account of the contest. She fell back to ninth place during the race, but managed to work her way to a sixth place finish, capping an impressive performance and accomplishment.

Looking ahead, Noble said she plans to continue to racing professionally.

“I’m going to an official pro team next year,” she said.

“It was always the goal but I didn’t think it would be happening while I was in college. They’re going to make my life a lot easier by allowing me to travel to Europe a lot and cover my races nationally and internationally. It really allows it to become a viable career choice. It’s really exciting.”

 

Benjamin Keefe can be reached [email protected]

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