For Ellen Noble, 2021 is a fresh start in almost every way.
After a brief hiatus from racing, the professional cyclocross and cross-country mountain bike racer is returning to competition with different sponsors, new goals, and a unique team model that, for now, includes just her.
Introducing Noble Racing.
“I wanted to create a real team that people can support,” Noble told VeloNews. “I wanted to create something that is able to go regardless of a timeline, to create something that was really based on my goals and things I want to give back to the sport. I wanted it to have a name and be something that people can support and even aspire to race for.”
A support network for juniors
While Noble Racing will support Noble’s own goal to return to competitive cross-country mountain bike racing in earnest, it will also have a sharp focus on mentoring young girls in the sport.
Noble, who has long given back to cycling by hosting ‘cross camps and other events for young female riders, says that Noble Racing’s mentorship model will be set up in a way where girls can receive support and build relationships virtually while still being able to ride with their own local team or development squad.
In other words, it’s intended to be a secondary support system for junior girls across the country.
“I was on all the teams as a kid,” Noble said. “A lot were predominantly male. I rarely had a girl around doing cycling-related stuff. I know that’s really different now, but I feel that you can never have enough women in your support network. You go to your first big race, and you’re terrified, then you get to see your friend you’ve been Skyping with for a couple months, it will be a cool way to have satellite teammates.”
Noble’s first goal with the mentorship side of Noble Racing is to create a pathway of support. The long-term goal would be to add a development rider to her team. Hopefully, she says, she’ll also be able to offer small grants to the mentees, to help with race fees and program dues.
Back to mountain biking
As for Noble’s own personal goals in 2021, well, they’re mostly on the trail.
Before she was diagnosed at the end of 2019 with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, Noble says that she was initiating a transition from more ‘cross to more cross-country.
“In the past, I would say my dedication to each discipline was 75 percent ‘cross and 25 percent mountain bike,” she said. “My dream has always been to race XC more than I have. In 2018 I was making my attempt at the Olympic long list. Obviously, with bad performances in the 2019 World Cups, I kissed those dreams goodbye, but it’s still something that I’m aiming towards, in 2024.”
Noble’s competitive schedule will still include racing ‘cross, yet she says that because of her health, she won’t be able to sustain the same volume of racing that she has in the past.
If COVID conditions allow, Noble’s first race of the season will be the USA Cycling Pro XCT in Fayetteville, Arkansa. Noble has been living and training in Tucson for the winter and says she’s giddy to return to competition after what essentially amounts to a year and a half with none.
“I only did a handful of events in 2019,” she said. “So I was really looking forward to racing in 2020. A few days after I announced the team, everything canceled. I was fortunate to do three ‘cross races in Boulder last fall. Otherwise, I haven’t done anything really competitive in quite a while. I haven’t really felt like I’ve had a big season since 2018. I’m really, really geared up to race again.”
Noble has spent most of her young adult life a competitor. She won her first junior national title in cyclocross at 17 and then took three consecutive U23 women’s national cyclocross championship titles. In 2014, she had a breakout year, winning three UCI Cyclocross World Cup races. In 2017, she took second place at the UCI World cyclocross championships.
Then, in 2018, Noble dove into the deep end of cross-country mountain bike racing, competing at three UCI XCO World Cup races in Europe. She got frustrated, learned a lot, and ultimately saw progress that she wanted to continue to build upon.
Although Noble feels that she missed two crucial years of her cross-country mountain bike career due to first, illness, and then, pandemic, she’s also trying to see the positives. Noble Racing, she says, is what emerged from all of that time away from competition.
“I used all that time of 2019 and 2020 to build a really incredible support system of PTs, coaches, resources, and friends to make sure I’m doing everything I can in my power to come back healthy,” she said. “I think the general consensus of friends and my support network is that most people would have given up by now. I don’t know if it’s being so strong-headed or being too dumb to know when to quit, but I’m still doing it. So in that way, I feel like anything I get from here is a blessing. I feel like anything I’m able to accomplish from here on out is a gift.”