The other day we were congratulating ourselves on the fact that we’d spoken to every CTT competition record holder from 10 miles to 12 hours, including Stuart Travis’s recent blitzing of the ‘30’ record.
However, we were reminded that all of those were men’s records and we should pay attention to the ladies.
Enter Ms. Alice Lethbridge, competition record holder at 15 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours – not to mention a member of the record breaking teams at 15, 25, 50 and 100 miles.
Here’s what she had to say to VeloVeritas, recently.
The basics first Alice: how old are you, where are you from and what do you do for a living?
”I’m 33, live in Surrey and I’m a teacher – Biology and Head of Year 11.”
You were a runner; at what level and why turn to cycling – when was that?
”I ran cross country, track and road and competed for England U20 at Cross Country and GB U23 Steeplechase.
“I was part of a very successful team at Aldershot, Farnham and District, for whom my team mate Vicky Gill also ran.
“I actually first met Vicky when I did the U20 cross country in Brussels and Vicky was part of the senior England team
“I had a series of bad injuries with my running – ruptured plantar fascia, ruptured ankle ligaments, stress fracture in my hip, broken metatarsal.
“Every time I just about got back to being ready to compete again something happened…
“In 2012 I was waiting for surgery on my foot when I went to watch the Olympic road race and time trial as they were only down the road.
“I joined a cycling club and it started there.
“I was still trying to get back running but was eventually persuaded to stop running and focus on cycling in 2014.”
We make you our championship successes:
- 2018: 10 mile silver and team plus individual silver in 2017
- 25 mile team (& 2017)
- 50 mile bronze and team
- 100 mile champion and team (& 2017)
- 12 hour champion (& 2017)
- BBAR (& 2017)
What have I missed?
”I was second at the RTTC Circuit Champs (also took silver in 2017 and bronze in 2016)
“10th at BC TT Champs only 10 days after the 12 hours.
“I also got bronze at the closed circuit in 2016 and 2017.”
Your competition records:
- 15 miles in 31:30 and team record
- 25 miles team record
- 50 miles team record
- 100 miles in 3:42:03 and team record
- 12 hours in 290.07
Have I missed anything?
“I also got the individual 100 and 12 hour records last year so this year was just improving those.”
20 wins off 24 starts in 2018 – how do you manage such consistency and which success gives you most satisfaction?
“The final tally is 21 time trial wins, three second places, one third place and one fourth place.
“Generally I really enjoy training and racing, and I think if you’re happy and healthy and want to do the training rather than see it as a chore you can be consistent.
“The consistency dwindled from August onward though as I was struggling with niggling injury and illness and started not to enjoy it so much.
“I had some not very good results at some big races and my result at the National ‘25’ was a real disappointment for me, as was the 50, but both of them I rode when not at my best and I realised that I needed to call time on my season after last weekend and prioritise my health over my cycling ambitions.
“The weekend in May when I did my 10 mile PB on the Saturday (19.40, fastest time by a women outside of the V718 and third equal fastest woman all time) and then the 25 PB the next day (50.10, third fastest of all time) were my best achievements this year.
“I’ve always been more of an endurance athlete naturally so it’s a much tougher challenge to be able to ride so well over the shorter distances.
“The ‘100’ record in July was also of great satisfaction because I don’t think anyone really thought I’d do it on that course and I had so many mechanical mishaps that race that I was lucky to even get to the finish.”
Have you thought about the road – UK time trialling doesn’t lead anywhere internationally, does it?
“I’ve done a few road races in the past and I actually won the only one I did this year which was an awesome feeling – it did end up as a 40 mile solo TT off the front though after the rider I broke away with punctured!
“I would like to do some more road racing but it’s so hard to fit it all in when I wanted to defend the BBAR trophy this year.
“I also enjoy road racing more when I’m part of a team.
“It’s a shame that UK time trialling doesn’t lead anywhere internationally so next year I would like to do better at the BC time trial champs and to do so need to do some more sporting TTs and take myself out of my comfort zone a bit more.”
And what about the track – an ‘hour’ bid must be somewhere your mind?
”I would love to have a go at the track and am planning to get accredited this winter.
“Obviously the pursuit interests me most.
“If I can get to grips with it an attempt at an ‘hour’ would be amazing but I realise it takes an awful lot of hard work and preparation, as well as being a huge financial cost.
“None of the records are easy to break!”
Who are/were your role models?
“I grew up as a runner and never watched cycling until 2012.
“So growing up my sporting heroines were Sally Gunnell, Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes.
“I obviously admire the achievements of riders like Beryl Burton, Julia Shaw and Marianne Vos, but I have to admit I don’t really have any cycling role models.
“For me, being a role model is as much about your attitude and conduct away from the sport as what you achieve on the bike and female cyclists don’t really get enough publicity to show off their personalities.”
Tell us about your training – do you have a coach?
“I’ve been coached by Huw Williams since October 2015.
“I do a lot of structured work on the turbo but also go out on fun rides without targets with some of the fast men at Kingston Wheelers whenever possible right throughout the year.
“I ride because I enjoy it so it’s important to me that that I’m doing rides like this every couple of weeks and Huw is very supportive of that.
“With regards to the turbo training, during school term time I have to get up at 05:00 am to train and can only squeeze in 60-75 minutes but you just have to work round things and make sure the quality is there if you don’t have much time.”
If you could influence British Cycling and/or the UCI to make a change(s) regarding ladies’ cycling governance, what would they be?
“Progress is being made but too slowly.
“At a World level it’s good to see the minimum wage being introduced but I do worry about whether teams will be able to fund this without the backing of sponsors and the women’s side is currently stuck in a vicious cycle with regards to financial support.
“There are also far too many stories always coming out about female riders being treated in an unpleasant and disrespectful manner and perhaps the UCI need to introduce a stringent safeguarding and welfare policy.
“On the sporting side I would really like to see the women riding exactly the same course as the men in both the time trial and road race and that doesn’t necessarily mean the women stepping up the men’s distances; it could be that the men’s races are shortened.
“Women should also get parity with regards to opportunities in stage races!
“With regards to British Cycling, I’d like the pathway from grassroots to elite made more inclusive.
“A lot of damage was done with the publicity about treatment of female GB riders in recent years; I don’t think it makes the sport particularly welcoming to young females.
“I think there are great initiatives such as Breeze cycling and the number of women racing has increased hugely in just the five years I’ve been racing but there’s still a huge leap from local level to National level and many of those at the higher level don’t make it easy to step up.
“There’s also not a clear pathway to international representation like in a lot of other sports.
“I’d also like to see BC put more into giving youngsters opportunities to get into the sport – it’s so expensive to get started that I’m sure there’s a huge pool of talent currently being missed.
“The cost of the sport is something that really prevented me from switching from running sooner as I just couldn’t afford a bike or kit and I’m sure there’s a lot of other young women in the same situation.”
What’s still on the Lethbridge ‘to do’ list?
“I have a problem in that I want to do (and be good at) everything!
“I enjoy ‘10s’ almost as much as the ‘100’ so it’s very hard to choose.
“Every season has to start aiming at PBs in every distance but then there’s so much to choose from – another crack at the 12 hour, an individual medal at the 25 as that’s the one that’s missing, winning a short distance CTT national, a better placing at the BC champs, racing on the track, doing more road races, an RRA record attempt or two…
“The one thing that definitely isn’t on my list is the 24 hour! (That’s what everyone asks about).
“The most important thing is to be enjoying what I’m doing.”