Covering Ground with Ellen
Ellen Noble is one of the major young talents in American cyclocross. With a maturity and focus that extend beyond her 21 years, Noble is looking to repeat in what is her final opportunity at the U23 national title. Her race Sunday in Hartford, CT, is close to home, and she has every right to be confident with a UCI ranking of 12th and results that include a win at Gloucester day 1, 5th at Jingle Cross and 10th at Zeven (both World Cups). The studious rising star of the sport gave us a few minutes ahead of Sunday’s championship race to talk racing, music, diet, and tech.
Where do the US Nationals rank on your list of racing priorities?
Pretty high up there, a definite stepping-stone on my way to World's.
You’re racing U23, tell us how that decision is made.
Nothing is guaranteed so there is no reason to race elites. Also, it’s my last year (in U23), and I have the rest of my career to race elites. The U23 is a great race with a lot of competition and by racing it I want to respect the title and my competitors.
Given this year’s course will you make any different equipment choices?
It all depends on the day and the conditions, which are constantly changing. Toe spikes are critical, I’ll probably use my ice ones, which are really sharp. I’ll also probably lean towards my FMB sprint slalom tires.
What gearing will you run on your SRAM 1x?
Right now I have 42 chainring with an 11-32 cassette, but I’m thinking about a 38. There aren’t long drag sections, so a lighter gear should work well with short power sections. I’ll try out the 40T but (will) probably switch to the 38.
Are there different styles of cyclocross racer? What are they? What are you?
There are different types of racers, and it’s especially true in CX. The styles are amplified because it’s such a hybrid sport, somewhere between road and mountain. If you want to divide the road and moutain, I’m more of an mountain bike racer. That makes me a little too aggressive and I go out too hot. I’ve worked hard to become a smarter racer. I do prefer to race alone and I know I don’t need to win the first lap.
Is tire pressure a day of decision or do you always run similar pressures? Can you reveal what you run?
I do usually run similar pressures, but this will change because when the season starts at 100 degrees then gets colder, you have to make adjustments. I rode at 24 or 25psi at Rochester (it was warm), and here (sub-freezing Hampton, CT) I might run 13 psi if cold enough. If it’s a little slick I’ll go 18 or 19, basically I run the lowest I can go without flatting.
What occupies the majority of your time ahead of a major race?
If it's downtime I prefer reading. I also use it as a time to be productive and work on email, hang out with my team and boyfriend. I’m going home every night because I live close, 50 minutes from here, except the night before the race. Depending on the race I'll spend some time thinking about it, meditating, watching videos of races and highlight feeds. I like to watch others and myself racing a good race. It puts me in a positive spot. I’ll also do some stretching, running, foam rollers. But I can’t spend all day thinking about the event.
What will you absolutely not eat ahead of any big race?
Name one race day tradition.
I always wear my good luck charm, which is my locket, I have two pictures of my father in it. I always race with that and it always keeps me safe. I always take time on the start line and think good thoughts.
Race day music musts?
Pump (me) up music--Adele, Hozier. On the trainer I listen to a workout mix on Spotify. I really like hip-hop and rap. Would wear a headset to start if I could.
What’s next for you after Cross Nats?
Focused on World’s. I’m heading to Rome on Tuesday, then Hoogerheide. I begin racing road May 1, for Colaita/Bianchi.
Ellen runs SRAM's Force 1x HRD (hydraulic road disc) groupset, Zipp Service Course handlebars, stem, and seatpost, and Zipp 202 Firecrest tubular Disc-brake.
Photo courtesy of Will Mathews photography.