January 27, 2013

Cyclist harnesses her grief, wins U.S. race

A Kennebunkport teenager pours herself into the demanding sport of cyclo-cross after her father's death and inspires others coping with loss.

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ellen Noble, 17, of Kennebunkport recently won a national championship in cyclo-cross, a sport that sends cyclists racing through muddy terrain and requires them to carry their bikes over obstacles.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Ellen Noble carries her bike over an obstacle at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross Nationals in Wisconsin on Jan. 11.

Photo courtesy cxmagazine.com

Additional Photos Below

Two weeks ago in Wisconsin, races were held in freezing temperatures over muddy, rolling terrain. Barriers interrupt the laps. Cyclists must dismount and carry their bikes over the obstacles.

"My legs are so short," said the 5-foot-3 Noble, smiling. "It's hard to pick up your bike and get over the barriers sometimes." She fell once, in the first turn of the first lap, but quickly got back on the bike, putting distance between herself and the others.

Her mother, who accompanies Ellen to races and sometimes competes herself, watched anxiously. "These races can turn so easily. A flat tire. One crash. The wrong tire pressure. Wrong clothing. Katie Compton (a multi-year national champ in the elite races) said the conditions were the worst she's seen."

Wearing insulated gloves impedes braking. Leggings get heavy when wet, so Noble rode barelegged to her victory. At the finish line, she was given a hot, moist towel to wipe the mud off her face. Her smile didn't come off.

Quickly, videos and photos of her win were posted on various cycling websites and viewed by many throughout the country. She rides for Trek Cyclocross Collective, a national team. She wants to master the five disciplines of competitive cycling: cyclo-cross, mountain biking, road racing, track racing and BMX.

She sat in a Portland coffee shop on Tuesday afternoon. Clear, direct gaze. A grounded sense of who she is. Friends at Kennebunk High told her she should wear the stars-and-stripes jersey that goes to the national champion to classes. Wear the medal, too. Noble shook her head. "Like no, I'm not going to do that."

She hears the skepticism that what she does is difficult. C'mon, it's riding a bike. Anyone can do that.

"Yeah, and I can hit a baseball but I can't hit a home run," said Noble. "Not everyone will put in the work to ride a bike like I do. The training is brutal."

For much of the summer, fall and early winter it seemed she was competing in two races every weekend from New England to the Southeast and to the Rocky Mountains. Her conditioning and her will kept pushing her forward.

"I'm not very spirtual. It's not like I can feel my dad on my shoulder. I really don't believe in luck. There's a reason stuff happens. I do feel my dad is with me. When I'm going through the mud, it's just like by dad taught me."

On one hand, Ellen Noble is just a Maine girl who won a national race and became a champion. On the other hand, she's become a champion to those who have suffered loss, a champion for those who must meet cancer head on.

She's only 17 and already understands the power of example.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Ellen Noble races through the course on her way to victory at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross Nationals in Wisconsin. Noble says that as she pushed through the mud, she felt her late father, Tom Noble, with her. “I want to make him proud. I’ve always thought people doubted me, but I’m not going to let someone stop me,” she said.

Photo courtesy cxmagazine.com

click image to enlarge

Noble at age 7, when she started competing in mountain bike races.

Submitted photo

Tom Noble



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