Interview: Alice Towers

First year senior Alice Towers (Drops LeCol pb/ Tempur) is about to race the biggest races in her life at Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege – we chatted last week.

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Interview: Alice Towers

Photos: Drops LeCol p/b Tempur

First year senior Alice Towers is about to race the biggest races in her life at Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. We chatted last week after Alice had taken care of having a pre-travel Covid test and completing the other paperwork that is part and parcel of being a travelling bike rider in 2021.

We spoke to Alice when she returned home to the UK after a really successful trip to Belgium for her teams Drops Lecol. Talking about the time with the team in Belgium during March/April, Alice explained “I never planned on staying out that long because I didn’t have a coming home date but it was really nice staying in the team house. The roads are really nice too so I wasn’t in a hurry to get back. I stayed for two weeks and then decided to stay for another two before coming home for a week. I’m now going back for a bit more!”

The team that Alice rides for, Drops Lecol, is a British team but with a strong international line up. “It’s been good to have a British ‘gang’ here in Belgium and we all mix so well with the other girls (internationals in the team)” says Alice. “There’s always good banter in the house between the staff and the riders which is nice.”

“We have a bit of a cooking rota like three girls will cook and there were quite a few people in the house at one point so you could be cooking for 15 people sometimes and cooking for that many can be a big shift! It works out really well though and everyone has done a good job with it (nothing burnt I was hearing LoL).”

For an 18 year old racing for a team that is riding the biggest classics in cycling, this time of her cycling career is about learning and becoming stronger. “I have learnt a lot in a small amount of time especially in the first few races” says Alice. “Not just in racing but little things like when you have a race to do, it’s good to bring a washing bag with you so you can put your dirty kit straight into it.” Alice then added “living the life in a pure cycling environment is pretty cool as well as well as a learning experience.”
Nowadays there is more women’s racing on TV but like the men’s races, we the viewers don’t always get to see much of what is happening outside of the front of the race. So I asked Alice who has watched these races and competed in them now, what don’t we see on TV?

“There are many different races going on throughout the race” says Alice. “I’m not strong enough yet to race with the front girls but there are separate races going on in the second group and third groups that are not on TV and it’s good racing!”

“Like in Nokere Koerse, I was in the third group I think. There was a breakaway and the peloton ahead and I was in a group of around 30 riders and there were loads of good riders like Pfeiffer Georgi and Jess Roberts. We were all going through and off chasing but they pulled us out on the last lap so we DNF’d which is a bit annoying as it was like my second one and I would like to have got another finish in the bag.”

There were races when things did go well for Alice like Ronde de Mouscron, a UCI 1.1 in Belgium where Alice got her first UCI points! “That was pretty cool and was the by-product of the success of the team” Alice explained.

“They were my first UCI points and hopefully there will be more to come. In that event, it was nice to race and be at the sharp end helping to make the race rather than hanging on and be like, ‘if I can stay in the group across this section then I should be good for this bit’. It was nice to animate a race a bit more”.

Her last race though, Scheldeprijs Vrouwen Elite, didn’t go so well and Alice crashed. “I’m alright and I was pretty lucky” Alice says of the crash. “A few girls went down and broke collarbones and stuff but I escaped it with just a few cuts and bruises so I think I bounced on the cobbles quite well! If you ride at the back, you do get caught up in stuff like that and see more crashes but I don’t really see a lot apart from the one I was in (which happened near the front). It happens and that is racing.”

One of the big things riders need to learn is how to ride in a pro peloton and Alice’s school of hard knocks is teaching her well in Belgium. “After a few races, I got the hang of it a bit more. Like riding as a team and moving up as a team is so much easier and more effective because other riders let you do things more as a team. Doing things as a team is important.”

But getting to the front is one thing, and staying there is quite another as Alice explains. “When you get there, it’s like, ‘oooh, I’m at the front’ and ten seconds later, ‘oh, I’m 50th wheel’. Everyone wants to be up there, especially in the classics so there is so much of a fight to be there at the front”.

Racing in Belgium also requires riders to learn how to ride the cobbles. “Apart from the Lincoln GP in 2019, I’d never ridden cobbles before like those in Belgium” says Alice. “I think I was holding the bars too tight to begin with as my arms were absolutely wrecked after the first race. You have to be more ‘fluid’ and let the bike float over them as much as you can. There is definitely a technique to it and I have improved since I first arrived”.

“When you lose momentum and start slowing down, that’s when they get really tough to ride but when you hit them with speed, you are like floating on them.”

Being in Belgium for a month must also have ramifications for a rider’s training. So I asked Alice, how she managed her training in the team house with the other riders? “Because there was a lot of racing going on but not all the girls were racing at the same time, there were always a few girls going training.”

“Even if we had different efforts to do, we’d head out together. We were staying right in the middle of the Flanders region like Oude Kwaremont was 3km away, the Paterberg was 4km away and Koppenberg half an hour way so it’s like a prime location for riding and I got the chance to explore. One day, April (Tacey) and I went out and did all the Flanders climbs in one ride and that was epic!”

Alice’s first race back in Belgium after her week at home will be Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday and then Liege-Bastogne- Liege on Sunday. “They are going to be very tough but such a cool experience” says Alice. “It is all happening quite fast for me and so it can be surreal. Stepping back though and looking at these races I am doing is pretty cool. I have never experienced these races before though and the girls tell me when these races are held without Covid it’s like a whole different experience. It is crazy…”

Alice certainly feels that all the hard work she has put in to get to where she is now has been worth it. “I have had some set backs and there are various routes to take to get to the top level of racing, like it is not all about the GB Academy for example. But I still have a way to go and hopefully in the coming years, I hope to be up there (at the front of races). It is certainly amazing to have had this opportunity from Tom and Bob especially during these tough times we have at the moment. Thank you to both of them for giving that opportunity to me”.

Good luck to Alice in these major classics and well done on your progress so far in the top echelon of racing in Women’s cycling.

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