Feature Interview: Alice Lethbridge (12 hr & 100 record holder)

When we look back at 2017, one of the talking points will be the day one of Beryl Burton’s long standing records was broken by Alice Lethbridge; the 12 Hour time trial. We have a chat with Alice!

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Feature Interview: Alice Lethbridge (12 hr & 100 record holder)

When we look back at 2017, one of the talking points will be the day one of Beryl Burton’s long standing records was broken by Alice Lethbridge; the 12 Hour time trial.

Alice, pictured above in the 10 championship where she was second), is a teacher who lives in the South East of England, made the country sit up and take notice when she was ninth overall (first woman) in the 12 hour time trial championship for 2017 and in the process, broke the 50 year old 12 hour time trial record held by the iconic female cyclist, Beryl Burton.

But that ride was just one of many special ones during the year for Alice who also won the BBAR season long competition, broke the National 100 comp record and won the 100 championship as well. Alice also finished second to Hayley Simmonds in the 10 and 50 mile Time Trial championships. In all, there were at least six victories for Alice in 2017 and they were quality through and through.

VeloUK spoke to Alice after Christmas who admitted to being shocked that her performances on the bike have led to the accolades that she has been gifted. Her achievements still haven’t sunk in as she explained “I spent the whole season chasing Rachael (Elliott) and Kate (Allan) (teammates) trying to keep up with them so I didn’t expect to be the one to get these accolades.”
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Whilst Alice’s ride in the 12 hour race is one that will sit in many people’s minds for a long time, when I asked Alice for her highlight of 2017, she replied “I think that is really difficult because the thing I had to work the hardest for was to win the BBAR and it was a major target. I thought I had lost it late in the season, and so I had to ride out of my skin to do the 25 time and to get the lead back.”

“I didn’t think I could do that and I shocked myself. The 100 record (which had stood for a long time when held by Julia Shaw) was a shock too and I will never forget the feeling I had looking at my Garmin after that. It was the first time I had really felt I had ridden that well and didn’t know I had that in me”.

“Then there was the 12 hour as well. I did have goose pimples when I came into the lap and knew I had the record. So it really is difficult to choose between those events really.”

Because the 12 hour record made such an impact in the sport, I asked Alice how long she had ridden 12 hour time trials and was surprised to learn that the answer was never and the only time she had ridden the distance was four years ago when she started riding, and she did a training ride around Majorca which took 14 hours and of that, 12 were riding the bike. Between that and the record breaking 12 hour time trial ride, Alice says her longest rides were five or six hours.

“I was very scared going into that 12 hour time trial because I didn’t even know if I could sit on a time trial bike for that long! I don’t do any training on my time trial bike at the moment because I am too worried about drivers in Surrey although my plan is to get a training time trial bike because I think that would help”.

Alice then explained how those in the time trial community were more than happy to offer advice for her 12 hour championship attempt. “I had some advice from Mike Broadwith (noted 24 hour championship winner) just before the 12 hour and he said ‘every time you are on a little rise, get out of the saddle and have a little stretch and that will help you hold the position you need to’. By the last couple of hours though, I was sitting up more than down I think!”

“I also went into the race having sought advice from friends who had done 12 hour time trials and I’d asked Adam Duggleby after his fantastic 12 hour ride because I thought the more information I go into the race with, the more prepared I would be and the better I would do. Everyone had their different bits of advice but it was all very useful.”

“I was so happy to break the record and relieved as well because I did feel a lot of expectation on me from a lot of people so I was over the moon. It is something a lot of people have targeted for ages and I am also aware that Beryl Burton really set the standards for women’s cycling and a lot of her shorter distance records still feature high up on the all time lists so to be able to beat her times and distance feels really good.”

Alice is just 32 so a long way from being an older rider with that big bank of miles in the legs over decades that help them ride such long distances. On the contrary, Alice has only been in the sport a short time after being a runner, but added that despite all this, the 12 hours did go quite quickly.

“I really enjoy going out for long rides and during the race was constantly doing sums in my head about where I was and what distance I was on and I just enjoyed it although I will add a 24 (hr) is definitely not on the cards at the moment!”
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Asked what the toughest thing was about the 12 hour, Alice replied she struggled with the nutrition. “I had practiced eating different things on long rides before hand and stuff I was fine eating in training, I just couldn’t keep down in the race so I ended up using gels and sweets and by the last few hours, I was being sick every time I tried to take something on and had to keep telling myself, I needed the energy. The last hour and half, I didn’t feel that good and that was because I couldn’t get the nutrition in.”

Alice then explained that part of the nutrition process was using a water bladder and she changed that twice during the 12 hours. “In terms of bottles, I could only fit a small bottle on the frame and I could not fit a bottle cage on my saddle because of the rear light so I used the water bladder which could take two litres of fluid which is heavy but it did mean I didn’t have to worry about hand ups too much.”

I then asked about pacing. The average speed was still almost 24mph and I wonder how many can average that for a six hour ride on their own never mind twelve hours. “My pace did drop off as the time trial went on” Alice admits.

“I knew the pace dropping off was always going to happen because the first circuit was the fastest road and then the second circuit was still fast but not as fast as the first and then the finishing circuit was quite a lot slower (a sporting one).”

Alice in her shortest race of the season, the Hill Climb Championship

“Mike had done a chart for me showing the slowing of the speed and what I should expect. So I knew I was constantly ahead of his schedule which was really motivating and on the finishing circuit was 0.1 of a mph up on the schedule and knew I would break the record doing that. I watched my power quite closely for example and had been given some advice by people compared to a 100 and what I’d expect and I was riding higher than that and felt comfortable.”

Whilst the record breaking 12 hour ride did not go perfectly, Alice says she intends to attack the distance again. “My coach (Huw Williams) asked me what my target was for 2018 and I replied I don’t really know because this year I had blown the targets all away and so he said to me, I need to do the 12 properly in 2018!”

“I did try really hard in it but I don’t think I exhausted myself the same way I did in both 100’s this year so I think I can find something extra hopefully but I will have to have really good conditions like I did this year when everything came together.”

Back to the beginning …
Going back to when she began in time trials, Alice explained that she used to be a runner. “I had quite a few injuries and then I went to watch the Olympics at Boxhill because it was quite close to where I live and thought riding a bike looked quite fun so I got a road bike and joined Epsom (club) and they persuaded me to have a go at few time trials on my road bike which were good fun.”

There were some hiccups as Alice admitted to. “In my second ever time trial, my first 25, I went completely off course and ended up on a motorway slip road!” That didn’t deter her though and she was soon in full time trial mode thanks to another well known name in the sport, Rebecca Slack.

“I did a few time trials at the end of 2012 on the road bike and then Rebecca set up a league to get more women into time trialling so I joined that. I really really enjoyed that and this was when it kicked off for me.” … continued after advert



Alice admits she does get a buzz from competing. “It’s like an escape, a time to get away from everything else and concentrate on what you are doing. I have always loved competing in sport since I was really really young. The kids in the road would always have racing competitions whether it was on foot or bikes.”

So a very competitive person I added? “I think so” Alice replied “but I am more competitive against myself I think than other people. Like, I am not great at road racing because I don’t feel I am good at racing other people at the end but I if I set myself a target, I am quite good at motivating myself to beat those personal targets which is why I think time trialling suits me.”

The last time I saw Alice was at the Hill Climb championships in the North East, a long way from Surrey, and she said of doing that explosive event, “If no-one has done the nationals, they should really try it because it is amazing fun”.

“I went into this year’s championship having been quite unwell and had only ridden up a hill three times in four months but it was such good fun and that is what this year has been about for me. I have not done any races I didn’t want to do. I have had such good fun and made friends in cycling this year; it’s been brilliant, and I have had a fantastic team to ride with too.”

So what is Alice’s favourite distance? “The 100” was the reply. “I did it for the first time last year and I just loved it. I don’t know why but I love riding longer distances. Who knows, the 12 hour may become my favourite but it is so nerve wracking as it’s so long and things can go wrong where as most of my training rides are between three and five hours so the 100 is the perfect time for me!”

“I don’t think I have nailed the 50 yet. I don’t think I have finished a 50 and thought yeah, that was great.”

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Training and work …
As already mentioned, Alice is a school teacher at a school where her achievements do not escape her colleagues who have taken an interest in her sport and she admits she is regularly ‘embarrassed’ by how proud her colleagues are.

Despite working full time, Alice still manages to do what is needed to be a champion. “I typically manage about eight hours a week during term time but more like twelve to fifteen in the holidays or up to twenty if I’m not racing that week and the weather is good” Alice explained.

“I started getting up at 5am a year and half ago in the week to train three times a week in the morning and then I just try and over load at the weekend and get some long rides in. Then there are the school holidays where I’ll try and do extra as well. I am working until 7pm or 8pm most nights …”

And the winter I ask? “I have been doing a little more intense training as the weather hasn’t been that good so I have had to use the turbo a fair bit more so am not getting as many miles as I would like. But generally in the winter, the training is of a lower intensity with longer endurance rides.”

The most important aspect of her training says Alice, is how varied it is. “Sometimes I will be doing minute intervals but then another time I may be doing hour long efforts or long rides so I think it being varied makes it more interesting and enjoyable. Every week, my coach also puts in a ride with friends as well which I enjoy and I think it is so important that you are happy and enjoy what you are doing”.

So, I then ask what the most enjoyable race was in 2017, Alice replied “there are so many I have enjoyed so much but I guess it is the 12 hour. The 100 record, 100 championships and the national 10 come close as well though. In the national 10 I shocked myself as well!”

Finally, its 2018 now so what are Alice’s goals in the coming season? “I’ll probably start racing in April, a bit later than last year because I was finding I was tired at the end of the season. The last few years, I have done quite a few of the sporting time trials where as I may leave those this year and start with the Lea Valley 25 in April again which I always enjoy as an event”.

“As for goals, I am a person who always wants to do things better than I have done them before so my personal goals are to improve my personal bests for every distance really and try and win medals at the national championships.”

For those wondering what her PBs are, here they are …
10 miles: 20 minutes
25 miles: 50.20
50 miles: 1.47.30
100 miles: 3.42.37 (record)
12Hr: 285.645 miles (record)

Add to that mix her results this year included six podiums in championships and that is quite a special season for any rider and no wonder Alice has had the accolades she has and we wish her all the best for 2018 and thanks for the chat… it was a pleasure.

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