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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.