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

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, 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 joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Motivated | 1 year ago

According to the 24 hour world time trial championships, the overall record for 12 hours is 258 miles for women and 285 miles for men.  According to the wind tunnel study done by the Jeremy Wilson book 'Beryl' ... Beryl would have done 305 miles on a modern aero bike.

I've seen one of Beryl's bike's in a museum and I can't believe anyone could average 37kph for 12 hours on that bike.  It's absolutely incredible.  Even more incredible is that it wasn't a one-off, as she routinely rode very far and fast for 25+ years.  She is the greatest athlete ever.

Paul J replied to Motivated | 1 year ago

Beryl's achievement was incredible. Beryl at hear peak would smoke everyone today still, with the same kit.

barbarus | 6 years ago

An amazing ride. One thing that has changed in the last 50 years is the amount of work that teachers have to do in their own time; 60 hour weeks are normal for me. So it's an amazing job to commit to the training required to beat a record like this. Well done!

alotronic | 6 years ago

FFS - stop carping on about modern equipment. It's a legal bike, end of story.  A great ride from someone who is obviously extremely talented. Chapeau!

BehindTheBikesheds replied to alotronic | 6 years ago

alotronic wrote:

FFS - stop carping on about modern equipment. It's a legal bike, end of story.  A great ride from someone who is obviously extremely talented. Chapeau!

No-one is carping, I myself have specifically said it's not the fault of the modern rider just that tech advances on. The DISCUSSION (you know that thing that happens on fora!) is to reflect back to acknowledge what an achievement Burton's ride was (& her many others) and that it was in ordinary kit.For me it would be interesting to be able to extrapolate records from yesteryear so we can have a truer comparison between athletes. Everyone has congratulated Ms Lethbridge for a fantastic effort in breaking the record. Chill out.

hawkinspeter | 6 years ago

Beryl was a phenomenon, so congratulations to Alice are due.

Gkam84 | 6 years ago

This is the E2/12 course Behindthebikesheds

Also, just to point out, UCI legal means nothing in the world of CTT. Totally different organization.

A huge well done to Alice, that record has stood the test of time against some of the best Britain (and the world) has thrown at it. I don't care about the differences in equipment, it just shows how tough good Beryl was back then and how good Alice is now, 50 years later to be the only women to have beaten it.

janusz0 | 6 years ago

I agree that it's a shame that we can't really compare records. However the fact that no woman has beaten the record in 50 years of advancing technology shows us how extraordinary both Alice Lethbridge and Beryl Burton are. Well done Alice!

BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
1 like

Great achievement and a big well done.

The A505 Baldock-Royston road can be pretty horrible as it's a dual with undualtions, bends and blind exits unless she was on the bit between the Royston turnoffs which are flatter and much, much straighter. I was in france that weekend otherwise would have cheered her on.

Rrecords are there to be beaten but somehow with massive advancements in technology/changing the goalposts which is common in cycling more than any other athlete event, it never feels quite right.

That's not the fault of the modern day rider but you only have to look at fairly recent times when Chris Boardman was asked to do the hour on a traditional bike, not at altitude and not on the 'gear' to prove he was the official record holder.

I love some modern day bikes but if we are to compare absolute records with those of days gone by maybe we could have a more like for like comparison tech/bike wise. Problem is tyre tech has moved on massively also so even with 32/28 handbuilt box rims, modern tyres and knowledge of nutrition/gearing/body position will give huge advantages even without the not having to move the hands off the bars to change gear, skinsuit, aero frame/wheels etc etc.

As for that fairing, that just seems utterly ridiculous, fluid tank or not. Also the length of the socks are a bit dodgy, certainly wouldn't be UCI approved.

Please someone do a computer simulation just so we can get an idea as to how far Burton might have gone on modern day kit. Over 320 I reckon as she was such a beast!


rix | 6 years ago

Just imagine what would be Beryl's distance on this bike!


230548 | 6 years ago
1 like

Good ride but surely the big piece sticking out of the front of the headtube counts as a windbreak  what else is it there for ?


adamrice replied to 230548 | 6 years ago
1 like

230548 wrote:

Good ride but surely the big piece sticking out of the front of the headtube counts as a windbreak  what else is it there for ?

Appears to be a water bottle.

1961BikiE | 6 years ago

Impressive stuff but look at the equipment used to break Beryl's record ridden on a drop bar, steel road bike. She was an amazing woman and athlete. If you get the chance to see the play "Beryl" I can very highly recommend it. Saw it earlier this year and it was funny and informative.

Not meant to take anything away from your ride Alce. Chapeau. X

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