Feature Interview: Alice Lethbridge

One of the stars of the sport of time trialling, Alice Lethbridge is broadening her racing in 2020 and will be doing the domestic Women’s National Road Race Series – we chat about her 2019 and what’s next

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature Interview: Alice Lethbridge

A star name in the sport of time trialing with victories in distances from 10 miles to 12 hours, Alice Lethbridge will be broadening her racing in 2020. “I’m going to be focussing on road racing in 2020” Alice explained in her interview with VeloUK.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining Torelli and have the opportunity to race the UK national series and some races overseas. I’ll still be doing some CTT events for Drag2Zero but whereas previously the TTs have been the priority, they will now just fit in around the road races”.

How would you rate your 2019 season overall?
Alice: Based on the targets I set this time last year, it would be considered quite a disaster, but I had several unexpected obstacles thrown my way during 2019. I had two nasty viruses back to back in February, and then in May I had some worrying blood test results and was told to prepare myself to not race again in 2019”.

“When I came back, I had one problem after another with the TT bike followed by another bout of illness with extreme iron deficiency at the end of August. Given that, I’m pleased to have finished with three individual silver medals and three team gold medals from CTT championship events and have several podiums in road races and crits.”

“I’m hugely grateful to Mark Powell for coaching me through all this and to ForthEdge for providing me with test kits which identified two of the illnesses and allowed me to get medical intervention before it put me out of racing completely for the year”.

Would it be true to say that you are putting more into the sport, encouraging women and races outside of your own racing? If so, what things this year have you been doing outside of racing itself?
Alice: Yes, I’ve loved becoming involved in more volunteering roles this year. Last year, I joined the London South District Time Trial Committee and this year I’ve also become part of my club committee and the London Women’s Racing committee”.

“We’re eagerly exploring ways to get more women involved in the sport such as running coaching sessions, putting new events on the calendar and working with current race organisers to develop their provision for women. During my enforced time off racing, I also contacted other local clubs to see if I could help at their events. I got to meet loads of new people and learn a lot about racing from watching other riders and talking to spectators”.

“I’d highly recommend more people get involved in volunteering as it really is a lot of fun”.

… continued after advert

How is the racing scene for women in the London area and how can it be improved upon?
Alice: Honestly, not great ☹ There’s a good set of events available at Hog Hill and Cyclopark throughout the year but a real lack of road races South and West of London, which is why I’m currently working with organisers to see if we can add women’s races to some of the well established men’s events.”

“The lack of women only races locally meant I’ve raced four times in with the men this year in the Surrey League handicap races, and it’s been a fantastic experience, really forcing me to develop my skills and power over short efforts. I’d really encourage more women to give it a go”.

You are known for your exceptional performances in time trials – is that a discipline that you are still motivated to do well in?
Alice: Yes, I definitely have unfinished business with TTs, but I need a mental break from them and time to get my TT bike back to a position that I can enjoy riding in.

In time trials, what were the highlights this season (2019)?
Alice: Hmmm, this is a tricky one as I didn’t achieve any pre-season targets and every TT seemed to either involve things going wrong with me or the bike! I was incredibly upset at having to abandon my big pre-season target of seeing how close to 300 miles I could go in the 12 hour after the disaster of the National 100 where I realised the changes to bike position were causing multiple injuries and had made the TT bike unrideable over long distance.

Given that, it might sound bizarre for me to say that the National 12 hour (bar Liz’s accident of course) was probably my highlight of the TT season, just as a spectator instead of a competitor. Initially I wanted nothing to do with the event, but after riding a road race that morning, I headed over to Norfolk to support the last 4 hours and it was a privilege to be able to cheer so many friends on and watch some fantastic rides that day”.

Alice tackling a hill climb time trial

Being well known in the sport, do you find other women looking to you for information, help at going faster and racing better?
Alice: It’s not something I’ve particularly been aware of until a clubmate at KWCC asked why all the new (male) racers were being sent my way! I hadn’t really realised how often I seem to end up giving information and advice until then.

When I first started cycling, my residual fitness from competitive running meant I was just thrown into riding with experienced groups and taking part in races and I was utterly clueless, which led to some rather amusing mishaps. Cycling is a very friendly sport but it can also be intimidating and confusing so I’m keen to help new racers, both male and female, into the sport”.

You race everything from short TTs to the really long ones – is there a favourite distance for you?
Alice: 100 miles has always been my favourite distance.

In the time you have been doing time trials, are you finding it getting more and more scientific (serious) with the skinsuits and bikes and what’s on them?
Alice: It’s definitely an ‘arms race’ with constant technological advances (and UCI rule changes)! To be honest, it’s always something that has frustrated me with the sport because it does mean that talent gets missed when people can’t afford good kit.”

“I know lots of people will argue that you don’t need a super bike/wheels / skinsuit etc to go faster but I was putting out very similar power numbers in 2016 to 2017/18 but I went an awful lot faster once I had top of the range equipment”.

What type of course do you find it safer to ride on in a TT?
Alice: It really depends on individual roads. Some dual carriageways are quiet or wide whereas others are incredibly busy. With sporting courses, I feel safe on those with wider roads and good visibility, but I won’t ride ones on narrow lanes with blind bends. I tend to judge each course individually, and I will nearly always go and recce sporting courses prior to an event to decide whether I feel comfortable racing on them”.

Outsiders look at dual carriageways (DC) and are shocked that riders race on them – as some one who does, how is it for the riders compared to single carriageway and circuits around the lanes?
Alice: Some of the DC courses feel far safer than the sporting ones. A lot of the sporting ones are on roads where motorists can still drive at 60mph but whereas on a DC the lines of visibility are most often good, the sporting ones often have corners and bends where drivers can’t see you until the last minute.

Some DC courses are equally terrifying though, because the lanes are narrow and drivers pass very close, but others such as the E2 have multiple wide lanes, so there really isn’t any reason for motorists to carry out a close pass. Consequently, there are certain courses I will ride on and others, like the A25/11 that I tried a couple of times, but concluded weren’t for me”.

How often do you like to race?
Alice: I love racing and would be racing multiple times a week if I could! I realise that this isn’t practical though as then you can never get a good block of training in so I try to have a 10-14 day period every month without a race.

Do you time trial to power or on feel?
Alice: I know what power range I should be able to ride over every distance but I always race on feel.

You raced the 10 champs and then amazingly went to Bourne where you had a good race getting in the breakaway? How do the two disciplines compare in terms of the ‘buzz’ you get from it as a rider?
Alice: That day was actually a pivotal point in determining my future cycling plans. I normally love 10 mile races (my second favourite distance) and the E2/10 is my favourite 10 course but I was so unhappy on the TT bike that morning.

“Being able to go straight up to Bourne to race on the road that afternoon was the perfect antidote for my disappointment and frustration. I was slightly disappointed with my result having got caught up in a crash with a few miles to go but I got a huge buzz from the breakaway and a massive confidence boost from managing the three unadvertised gravel sections and finishing what was a really tough race”.

… continued after advert


How do you mix your sport with your work? Does work have more of an impact on the training than the racing?
Alice: It’s really tough. I think most people know I’m a teacher, but I don’t think many realise I’m also a Head of Year. Fitting training round my classroom teaching and marking isn’t too hard, but the Head of Year role is hugely unpredictable, time consuming and at times, extremely emotionally challenging. To be honest, I didn’t really juggle this very well from about May 2018 to May 2019 and ultimately that led to serious illness.”

Is their a specific technique of getting the body to ride at 30 mph when most of us can’t event sprint that fast! 
Alice: To be honest, if you’d asked me a few years ago if I could ride that fast I’d have thought you were crazy. When I was riding TTs really well in 2017 and 2018 I was doing a lot a high quality turbo sessions at threshold power and spending a lot of time racing on the TT bike. When you combine good power with a workable position and good weather conditions it just all clicks. For anyone aiming for a sub 20 minute 10, I’d say just stick at it – you might surprise yourself.”

Is winter a time to dread or enjoy on the bike and training?
Alice: I hate the cold as I get Raynaud’s syndrome but as much as I love racing, I also really enjoy the opportunities in winter to just go and ride with friends.

Do you find yourself indoors more in the winter due to short days and the weather etc?
Alice: I end up training indoors in the week most of the year as it’s the easiest and safest thing to do around work. The last few years, the very cold weather forced me indoors a lot at the weekend too. I don’t mind a few long weekend turbos, but for me the best things about cycling is being outside exploring and riding with friends, so I’ve treated myself to a second hand CX bike this winter so I can get out more even when the weather is not suitable for road riding.

Finally, when do you expect to start racing in 2020?
Alice: I plan to do some winter crits to improve my cornering and sprinting but the real racing will probably start late March / early April.

Thank you Alice, I very much enjoyed your insight in your place in the sport. Look forward to seeing you again on the road in 2020 and all the best for the coming winter 


Cycle Division’s Shop

Send your results as well as club, team & event news here

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK