Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing CX) will be the first to admit she has not had the cyclocross season she was hoping to in 2019.
After winning multiple national championships as a Junior and U23 rider, Noble celebrated her first season as an Elite by finishing second at Reno Nationals and then took Marianne Vos down to the wire at World Cup Waterloo in 2018.
In a recent interview with former Cyclocross Magazine editor Molly Hurford, Noble shared how she has been dealing with chronic fatigue issues this year that have affected her ability to train and race.
After taking all of October off from racing, Noble returned to racing the first weekend of November at the Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross and picked up her first podium finish of the season.
This past weekend at Ruts n’ Guts, Noble showed that she is on the upswing from the health issues she has been dealing with, winning both days in Oklahoma and capturing her first UCI wins in over a calendar year.
“This weekend wasn’t my first UCI win, but it certainly was one of the most exciting for me in recent history given everything I have been dealing with during the last year in terms of health problems that lead to a lot of disappointing results,” Noble said. “Feeling like I’ve at least began to put that behind me and start taking steps to getting back to the front of these races—and feel really good while doing it—meant a lot.”
We chatted with Noble about her win, her challenging season and returning to form moving forward. You can read a transcript of our conversation below.
Ellen Noble: 2019 Ruts n’ Guts Double Winner
Cyclocross Magazine: A win is just a win, but it seems like doubling up at Ruts n’ Guts was much more than that for you. Was that the case?
Ellen Noble: This weekend wasn’t my first UCI win, but it certainly was one of the most exciting for me in recent history given everything I have been dealing with during the last year in terms of health problems that lead to a lot of disappointing results. Feeling like I’ve at least began to put that behind me and start taking steps to getting back to the front of these races—and feel really good while doing it—meant a lot. I’ve had several moments of false hope throughout this year, but I really believe this time I am actually on the up.
CXM: What were some of the keys to racing well both days at Ruts n’ Guts?
EN: I’ve been working really hard, in different ways that I have in the past. I’ve had to really re-evaluate my lifestyle, reconsider everything that I’ve done and get back to the root of the “why” with my racing, training and process. One of my biggest things for Ruts n’ Guts specifically was pre-riding a little more than usual. I don’t normally think more equals more, but in the case of Ruts n’ Guts, riding the course more helped me find lines that weren’t as obvious, so that was a big help.
CXM: The positive response on social media about your win was probably the most we’ve seen for a domestic race this season. Were you surprised by that at all?
EN: It was pretty incredible. I am honored by it, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I have such an incredible fanbase and online community I’m so thankful for. I’ve been pretty vocal about my struggles on social, so I think people have become invested in this process like we all do with our friends and people we follow online. That’s the beauty—and the curse—of social. But It doesn’t surprise me, if I’m being honest, because everyone is so supportive all the time.
CXM: Louisville Nats was a super heavy day, but this time around, you got the best of Sunny both days. Is that something you’ve worked on slash put an emphasis on this past year?
EN: I think going into the season with such a distinct lack of fitness compared to years past meant that my strategy has changed. I can’t start as hard as I used to, but I think that’s teaching me patience and that pays off on heavy courses. Also, by the time Louisville Nationals had happened, I was already beginning to deal with the decrease in performance. I hope that doesn’t discount Sunny’s ride, it was incredible.
Just for me personally, I think if I raced the same exact race in Louisville again this year, I would race much better compared to myself last year. Maybe the same result but a much better feeling.
CXM: It seems like the heavy racing schedule here in the U.S. late in the season is a bit different for you. Do you think it is benefitting you given everything you’ve dealt with?
EN: Yes, it’s been really nice! It allowed me to train until I was ready and still have something to race before Nationals without feeling too rushed before.
CXM: I read your interview with Molly Hurford, with the increased racing, does that mean you’re starting to get a handle on some of the fatigue issues?
EN: Thanks for reading that! That is correct. I don’t want to think I’m entirely out of the woods yet. As I said, I’ve had false hope in the past, but I feel better than I’ve felt in ages, and the training is coming around. I know if nothing else, I have found the major culprits and the rest are smaller details.
CXM: You’re always an athlete who’s kind of in the spotlight, what have been the keys in dealing with this difficult season given that attention?
EN: I think honesty has been a big part of it. I have never wanted to be inauthentic on social and pretend everything is great when it isn’t. Its been incredible to talk to other people about what I have been going through and realize I’m not alone, and I know others feel the same way.
I think the hardest part is feeling like, with all the people that do follow me and know me from races, thinking that I have just gotten lazy, or gained weight, or am contemplating quitting, when that wasn’t the case at all. I have had to work really hard not to think about what other people are thinking of me, because otherwise it would’ve driven me crazy.
CXM: Has the last month changed your expectations and goals for Nats at all? How so?
EN: I guess so. It’s all just been about getting better when I can and then having the best race I can put together. I think I have slightly more optimism that I could have a performance that’s representative, but that’s really all I can ask for.
CXM: Moving forward, are there positive things from this season you are hoping to carry through the rest of the year and into next season?
EN: I think this season, as I said before, has made me re-evaluate what I do and why. It’s also made me ask the question of whether I still want to do this anymore and if it’s worth it. The answer is yes! I feel like I’ve gotten better at the things that aren’t just pedaling hard. And I am so thankful for my health and the ability to suffer and things like that. I also have a lot of gratitude. I want to carry that forever.
CXM: Finally, how is the vlog project going? How did that get started?
EN: The vlog is going well, thanks! I just went in a different direction with the most recent one, and it seems to be well-received, so I might pivot from the traditional “vlog” and see where we end up. It began because my friends and I had always wanted to create a scripted slash improv cycling show, but that’s a bit above our paygrade … I mean ability level. So I decided to make a foray into vlogging and get my foot in the door and go from there.
CXM: Awesome to hear you’re on the upswing. Good luck this weekend and see you in Washington.
EN: Thank you.