King of the MAMILs - overweight heavy smoker in mid-40s goes from Cat 4 to Elite racer in just 8 months

Bristol Road Club member Nick Noble has won eight races since returning to sport in February

by Simon_MacMichael   September 18, 2012  

Snaking Peloton (copyright Simon MacMichael)

In what could well be the supreme example of the Middle Aged Man in Lycra (MAMIL), a Bristol cyclist who by his own admission was overweight as well as being a heavy smoker has secured an elite racing licence less than a year after deciding to get back on the bike to race.

Nick Noble, aged 46 and from Portishead, took just seven months to shoot up through the ranks from 4th categroy to elite cyclist, reports the Bristol Post.

On the way, he’s racked up eight wins so far in 2012, and has become only the second British male cyclist aged over 45 to secure an elite licence and only the second to gain one inside 12 months.

Noble, admittedly, wasn’t a total newcomer to cycling – he was Great Britain’s road team reserve at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, when selection was still restricted to amateurs.

He decided to leave the sport at the age of 22 after becoming tired of the constant travel to Europe for races at weekends as well as the disillusionment he felt after seeing fellow riders doping.

Instead of chasing success on the road, he went on to train as an architect.

Nevertheless, his meteoric rise this season after being encouraged to start racing again following some teasing from his brother Toby is a compelling story.

Since returning to racing in February, the Bristol Road Club member has racked up the 550 points needed to secure an elite licence, collecting them from the word go as he won his first three races following around four months’ training ahead of the season.

"It was then that I realised I could be an elite cyclist," he told the Bristol Post. "At that point the first thing I was doing after crossing the line was lighting up but it's not a good advert for the sport and I stopped smoking four months ago.

"Since that first race in February I have competed in 67 and won eight and finished in the top five in more than half.

"I still have a few to go. I think it will be almost 80 by the time the season is over."

Besides packing in the fags, Noble’s training regime has also meant he’s had to make some other changes to his lifestyle.

"I ride 30 miles to work, do an hour interval training during the day, then ride 30 miles home again," he explained.

"I tend to have a bowl of pasta for lunch, protein shakes after training and something light for dinner because at my age keeping the weight off is tough.

"I also have a sports massage each week which is important, " adds Noble, whose rediscovered love of cycling has made a bid of a dent in his bank balance.

"There are so many things. I must have spent £20,000 on bikes and there is the entry fees, travelling and clothing.

"You can buy two wheels and they cost £2,000 and if you crash that's it, because you can't insure them."

He believes the expense and the training he has put in are worth it, however.

"In a weird way it's a greater achievement than what I did when I was younger," he reflected.

"That is because it's off the back of me being a heavy smoker and having a body that was overweight and without a sporting muscle in it.

"Eleven months down the line I am lining up on the start line next to Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy at a race in Newport – and getting well and truly beaten I should add. I just hope I can be an inspiration to other cyclists – especially those my age."

Brian Kelly from Bristol Road Club told the newspaper: "We would like to offer Nick huge congratulations from everyone at Bristol Road Club. What an inspiration you are.

"This is an incredible story of effort and commitment."

It’s an inspirational story, and that final comment highlights that there’s a lot of hard work that has gone into Noble’s rise through the ranks.

It’s doubtful whether a newly fledged MAMIL who comes to the sport as a total newcomer at a similar age would be able to follow his lead – although we’d be happy to be proved wrong.

We once spoke with a 60-something former racing cyclist who among other things has an Olympic medal in his collection, who went out for a ride with a neighbour, very much a convert to cycling but who had got very fit and turned himself into a decent rider; the ex-pro, on the other hand, had piled on the pounds and hadn’t been on the bike in ages.

Needless to say, it was the MAMIL who ended up having his legs ripped to pieces, with the former professional putting it down to the fact that he still had muscle memory from all those years of racing.

We suspect those early years in the saddle have likewise been an influential factor in Noble getting elite status in such a short space of time – but it’s still a great story.

28 user comments

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What a success story, it really makes my dabbling with bike racing look pathetic! Plain Face

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [324 posts]
18th September 2012 - 12:45


I guess there's hope for me yet Thinking

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [237 posts]
18th September 2012 - 12:52


chapeau that man Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [923 posts]
18th September 2012 - 12:55


That's properly badass.

Good on him for getting stuck into it and (hopefully!) enjoying what he's achieved.

posted by thereandbackagain [159 posts]
18th September 2012 - 13:05



In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
18th September 2012 - 13:35


amazing to hear how he let himself go after 1988, good to hear how well he's doing now ...

posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
18th September 2012 - 13:54


You just have to make us all feel like crap don't ya! Wink

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [320 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:10


Great story.

In theory, although never going to happen. Could he have competed for GB at the worlds this week now that he has an elite license?

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9364 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:11


I hate him


posted by Some Fella [908 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:16


£20,000 to spent on bikes and £2000 on a wheelset - not a poor mans sport is it? Makes me feel slightly sick reading that to be honest - I wonder how many ad men will hope that other Mamils try to emulate him!

posted by daveherb13 [41 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:46


Bit of a nonsense story. Clearly a very tidy rider back in the day so the latent talent was there. Would have been more impressive without his racing background.

That said, reassuring to read that 20 years of nicotine abuse hadn't completely eroded his cardio talents.

He sounds like a dangerous obsessive, though - bet his other half is chuffed with that training/racing schedule.

posted by Yennings [233 posts]
18th September 2012 - 14:58


£20,000 on bikes and £2000 on a wheelset is absolutely not required to enjoy and do well. I race on a 9 year old bike using a £300 wheelset and have done reasonably well this year, including some wins.

It's the race fees and travelling that can add up a bit though!

posted by madmax [9 posts]
18th September 2012 - 15:01


The mans 46 and has been working as an architect. Good luck to him if he wants to spend his hard earned cash racing.

posted by musicalmarc [92 posts]
18th September 2012 - 17:08


Before and after pictures are needed Liar

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
18th September 2012 - 17:13


SamShaw wrote:
What a success story, it really makes my dabbling with bike racing look pathetic! Plain Face

Don't be hard on yourself Sam. Any race you enter is a success. Any race you finish ditto. Any race you finish in the pack double ditto.I started racing this year after plodding through a few years of triathlon then a couple years of sportives. There's nothing as good as having a number on your back in a real race.

A miserable old bugger in our club has finally got himself a national champs jersey this month at the age of 70. He's not going to let us forget it - ever! It just gives me the drive to do the same. I still have 23 years left to beat his achievement. Wink

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1221 posts]
18th September 2012 - 18:35


Yennings wrote:
Bit of a nonsense story. Clearly a very tidy rider back in the day so the latent talent was there. Would have been more impressive without his racing background.

That said, reassuring to read that 20 years of nicotine abuse hadn't completely eroded his cardio talents.

He sounds like a dangerous obsessive, though - bet his other half is chuffed with that training/racing schedule.

Not sure about the dangerous obsessive bit; fair play to him if he wants to spend his time and money on something other than smoking.

It is a non-story though; I remember racing against him back in the Eighties and he was, basically, shit hot! He used to race for Team Zoyland, who were sponsored by Specialized, and raced in all the Star Trophy races, National Champs etc. seem to remember he had a brother called Mark who was pretty handy also; perhaps we'll be reading about him soon!

posted by pwake [367 posts]
18th September 2012 - 18:43


Awesome .. good on him for getting out there and not using other things as excuses.
Even with talent he still needs to put in the effort to train and race hard.

posted by Jasonnz1 [23 posts]
18th September 2012 - 21:44


I have to wonder jasonnz1, how much is talent and how much is training? Not playing down his achievements AT ALL, just curious.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
18th September 2012 - 22:09


Certainly he's got a bit of an advantage but It'd only be a non-story surely if there were loads of over 45 year old elite ex-pros. Don't think there are though and if lots of riders raced from 4th cat to elite in 8 months, by the sounds of it not even riders who've gone on to be pros have managed that… even presumably himself first time around.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
18th September 2012 - 22:18


Some odd responses here. £20,000 = dangerous obsessive, that must make every mid-range car driver that uses it for their daily commute similarly obsessive (and they have running costs on top!)

Surely the appropriate response is to congratulate someone on rediscovering their passion and undoubted talent for cycling as a sport - and in my case to try even harder to give up the fags.

posted by FMOAB [262 posts]
18th September 2012 - 22:53


No matter what, this is a fantastic achievement. Chapeau!

Now all I need to do is get my blood pressure sorted, get rid of this sinus infection and get back out on the road!

posted by Roscoemck [12 posts]
19th September 2012 - 8:27


Inspirational story. Shows what can be achieved if you have a goal you want to achieve, apply yourself and don't make any deluded excuses.

Nick Noble has shown great self-discipline and guts in reversing over 20 years of unhealthy lifestyle and he has my respect.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
19th September 2012 - 8:30


Would have been more impressed if he was still on the fags. Lighting up after a ride is one of life's great pleasures.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
19th September 2012 - 16:05


I would think you would have to be obsessive to do that well. And that's no bad thing. Nothing wrong with really reaching for something and making a go of it. I wish I had that level of dedication.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [303 posts]
19th September 2012 - 17:58


How does he get the time to ride that much each day? I used to do 30 miles a day but the 29 sets of traffic lights each way made a fast time for that distance impossible. Granted I had a three hour train journey on top, would have been better without that...

Anyway, well done to him.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [295 posts]
19th September 2012 - 18:59


Seeing fellow riders doping? Care to share some names?

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [264 posts]
19th September 2012 - 23:23


Same age as me! What is my excuse for being s**t now? A Ha...have not got a spare £20,000 that will do it! And I am not an Architect; Happy again now Yawn

posted by SideBurn [913 posts]
20th September 2012 - 8:24


Chapeau. No excuses then - bugger Thinking

It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile.

narch's picture

posted by narch [120 posts]
20th September 2012 - 9:52