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OPINION

Alice Lethbridge talks about breaking Beryl Burton's 12 hour time trial record, which stood for 50 years

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Alice Lethbridge on beating Beryl Burton's 12-hour TT record

The weekend before last, Drag2Zero rider Alice Lethbridge broke Beryl Burton’s 12-hour time trial record, which had stood for half a century. Official results have not yet been released ending confirmation of some riders’ final distances (once they are, they will be posted here), but Alice’s final distance has been confirmed at 285.65 miles – more than 8 miles further than the 277.25 miles Burton rode in 1967.

In this blog post for road.cc, Alice talks about her record-breaking ride – starting with the course she set it on.

The course is the ‘E2/12’ in Cambridgeshire and is composed of three circuits. The first circuit is on the A11/14 between Four Went Ways and Red Lodge.

The second circuit is out and back between Royston and Baldock on the A505 and the final circuit is a ‘sporting’ loop near Six Mile Bottom.

I completed two laps of the first circuit, six of the second and just under seven of the final circuit. Six laps of the finishing circuit coincided precisely with the previous record distance, so the cheers I got from the supporters at the roadside when I reached this point with 20 minutes to go were amazing.

Alice Lethbridge 12-hour TT ride (4).jpg

I haven’t been riding long and still view myself as someone that mostly rides their bike for fun (and I also work full time as a teacher), so I’m still in shock at breaking such an iconic record that so many other talented riders have attempted.

I only decided I would definitely ride the event the Sunday before, so my planning and preparation wasn’t particularly thorough.

I knew exactly what speed was required and had a schedule for each section of the course, but had no idea if I could actually maintain that pace. I was honestly mostly just worried whether I could even ride 12 hours non-stop.

Alice Lethbridge 12-hour TT ride (3).jpg

The idea to even attempt a 12-hour only came after I broke the 100 mile Competition Record at the ECCA 100 (also on the A11/14), prompting a lot of people to encourage me to give it a go. After another good ride in the National 100, I decided it was worth exploring and started seriously considering it and looking into what it would take.

I’m lucky to know a few experienced 12- and 24-hour riders and their advice was to enter the Breckland CC event, as it’s considered to be a faster course, but it took place only six days before the National 25 and one of my main aims at the start of this year was to win the team competition in the National 25 with my teammates Rachael Elliott and Kate Allan.

I knew I couldn’t enter the Breckland event and be recovered in time for the Nationals, so chose the ECCA event instead (incidentally we broke the team competition record at the National 25, having also broken the team competition record for 50 miles a few weeks earlier).

Alice Lethbridge 12-hour TT ride (1).jpg

Because this was my first 12, I decided to ride on feel as I’ve only ridden longer than 6 hours non-stop a few times and never more than 200 miles. I felt surprisingly in control throughout, but did have a wobble around four hours in.

Riding at lower intensity than my usual time trial pace felt easy and as a result I didn’t eat very much at all in the first three hours.

I started feeling dizzy, but three gels in quick succession put me back on track. This became something of a theme; I couldn’t keep down anything other than gels and sweets and my nutrition plan went out the window.

After eight hours of just gels and Colin the Caterpillars, I was struggling to keep even that down, so I did worry about lasting the final few hours.

Thanks to my detailed schedule, I knew I was making good time throughout the event, but it wasn’t until I completed my first lap of the finishing circuit that I knew it would be possible to break the record.

I was so worried about bonking though that I kept my pace very steady and controlled and it took until the fifth lap before I knew I was definitely going to break the record.

Those final 20 minutes I was over the moon knowing I had beaten the record but had to just keep concentrating on riding as far as I could before the 12 hours was up.

After passing the final timekeeper, I pulled into the nearest driveway and collapsed in a heap. I felt pretty rough, but after taking my shoes off and lying down for a few minutes, I was back on my feet and actually felt better than I had after either of the 100-mile rides!

Alice Lethbridge 12-hour TT ride (5).jpg

My bike is a Scott Plasma 5 with Ultegra Di2, a Fabric Tri saddle and an Enve 7.8 front wheel and Drag2Zero Disc. It’s my first season riding this bike and the improved comfort from the better position it enables compared to my old bike is part of the reason I think I was able to complete the 12 hours without too much discomfort.

There are several people I really couldn't have done this without – my boyfriend Chris Herbert, who was my support on the day and who I regularly train on long rides with, Natalie and Simon Atkins at Drag2Zero for inviting me to join the team this year and getting me set up and comfortable on the bike, Huw Williams  who is my coach, Liam Maybank for rebuilding my bike in the week so I could use the integrated bottle and food storage system and Mike Broadwith for providing me with a schedule to break the record, so I knew how fast I needed to do each lap. 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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