Believe it or not, it is almost time to turn the page on 2017. To close out the year, we are taking a look back at 13 of the stories that shaped the year. This list is by no means comprehensive and is loosely intended to be in chronological order, starting with the 2017 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford.
After a season memorable for exciting Women’s races, it was only fitting that the second-ever U23 Women’s World Championships would continue the trend of taking the racing to 11.
The U23 Women’s race drew extra interest from U.S. cyclocross fans because two riders headed to Bieles, Luxembourg with strong podium chances. Aspire Racing’s Ellen Noble won the season-long U23 Women’s World Cup series and Emma White of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com joined her as a podium hopeful.
Realizing her Worlds podium aspirations would put Noble in a very select group of U.S. cyclocrossers. Only six other Americans had ever reached a Worlds podium prior to 2017. Katie Compton has three seconds and a third to her name and five American men have podiumed across the three categories. Heading into the Worlds weekend, Matt Kelly stood alone as the only American world champion after winning the Junior Men’s category in 1999.
To fulfill her Worlds goal, Noble had her work cut out for her. Dutch mountain bike star Annemarie Worst finished the season strong, including an overall third the weekend before in Hoogerheide. Defending champion Evie Richards of Great Britain was back and Laura Verdonschot of Belgium also had a strong season.
Leading up to the weekend of racing in Bieles, the usual trickle of videos showed a challenging course that was rendered even more difficult by snow and ice. The course featured the harrowing off-camber that had to be re-designed mid-week and several drops and run-ups that would challenge riders’ technical skills and ability to stay upright.
Earlier in January, Noble and White got some practice in on the winter conditions during their U23 battle at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford. Noble got the best of White on that afternoon, thanks in large part to her exceptional bike handling abilities. One question was how the practice would pay off for the long-time rivals.
A Noble Effort in Bieles
On the January Saturday in Luxembourg, practice made perfect for Noble. Noble asserted herself early and used her strong technical skills and line choices to stay where she needed to be.
Noble made the first lead selection with Worst, Richards and Verdonschot. The favorites were all there and Noble’s Worlds podium dreams were very much alive. White, on the other hand, got caught behind several crashes and would not have the same opportunity.
After two laps, Verdonschot fell off the pace. It was now just the three mountain bikers: Noble, Worst and Richards.
Inside two to go, Worst attacked. Noble followed but Richards could not. The selection was two.
Noble entered the bell lap with a four-second advantage on Worst. A last-lap slugfest between the two young stars heated up the cold afternoon. They traded leads several times before Worst ultimately won the race.
Noble finished the race strong to secure a Worlds silver medal and her place in the annals of U.S. cyclocross. She became just the seventh American cyclocrosser to podium at Worlds.
Now in her first season as an Elite rider, Noble now has the opportunity to build on her U23 triumph and add more chapters to her story of cyclocross success.
Cyclocross Magazine’s Megan Archer spoke with Noble after the race:
To re-live Noble’s historic ride at the 2017 World Championships, a replay is available: