She made the commitment late last year to put forth a real effort towards mountain bike racing — train non-stop, sacrifice little and big things, endure pain, challenging herself in ways she never did before — in order to take a serious shot at making her presence known on the Ontario Cup circuit.
“It was the right time in my life to commit to it,” the 28-year-old said. “I realized what was important in my life and what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to see how far I could go with racing by committing myself. I wanted to see what my personal limits are. I wanted to see how far I could push myself and push myself to win.”
Sabel got into mountain biking 10 years ago when she worked at The Outside Store. Five years ago, she began racing casually and never took the sport seriously. She is now a member of the Walden Mountain Bike Club Wolfpak Racing Team. Her goal is to ride in every Ontario Cup event in 2012.
Prior to this season, Sabel had never stood at the top of the podium for provincial race.
The commitment to pushing herself to new heights has paid off and changed everything. Sabel has won five races in a row in the senior expert women’s 19-29 division on the Ontario Cup loop and is ready for more — more wins and more challenges.
“It has motivated me to win more. It’s addictive,” she said about her results. “It’s neat to finally see how hard I can really go. It’s a personal goal of mine. Every race, I race against myself to put up better times. It’s huge to me and for me.”
Growing up and through high school, Sabel played sports casually. She was into “bands and academics” and played musical instruments. But she always put foot to pedal her entire life.
Sabel is currently a researcher at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre. She even admits it kind of shocks her to see what she has become, a hardcore athlete, driven to never stop trying to find limitations.
“It’s funny to see me at this stage in my life,” Sabel said. “It has absolutely changed me. It means so much.”
Sabel has enjoyed plenty of support from the club and president Rob St. Marseille in her transformation into an elite rider. She has also been training with the athletes and coaches at the Sudbury Cycling Club.
A big plus has been leaning on the expertise of her boyfriend, Jody Waddell, an accomplished rider in his own right. Waddell has raced at the Ontario, Canada and World Cup levels. He and St. Marseille act as coaches for Sabel.
Putting in the time and effort has only been two parts of the equation that has made Sabel successful this season.
“Crystal has put her heart into it,” St. Marseille said. “She has dominated the circuit and no one has been able to catch her. It has been amazing to say the least. She has put a lot of dedication into everything she does for racing. Her success reflects her dedication. She has come into her own. It’s cool to see.”
St. Marseille doesn’t hesitate to say Sabel has talent and skill as a rider. Sabel is a “mild-mannered and humble person” off the course and in life according to St. Marseille, but it’s a different story when the race starts.
Sabel blitzes courses and her desire to push herself harder than she ever did before certainly stands out in competition. It has been another key ingredient in the recipe for success.
“When it is time to race, Crystal puts on her game face and she goes hard,” St. Marseille said. “She is fearless in how she attacks the course and she is aggressive in the technical aspects. She is in tune with how she feels and pushes herself to her limit. She keeps up her intensity through the race. She is just relentless.”
Sabel’s next race is in Gravenhurst on Aug. 12. The provincial championship takes place in September.