What's Cool In Road Cycling

World Record Holder – Ashton Lambie Gets PEZ’d!

Rider Interview: The fastest man in the World on two wheels over 4,000 meters and a mustache to be proud of – That is USA’s Ashton Lambie. From ultra distance and gravel riding to grass track, then to the steep banking of the fast velodrome, Ashton’s story is not a simple one. Ed Hood caught up with the ‘Man with the Mustache’ for the story behind the speed.

Jack Bobridge hasn’t had the life he would like after he quit cycling – but that’s another story. But we know about the man: he’s been Australian Elite Road Race and Time Trial Champion; World u23 TT Champion; a World Team Pursuit Champion at junior and senior levels; Commonwealth Champion at the same discipline; National, Commonwealth and World Individual Pursuit Champion; twice an Olympic team pursuit medallist and World record holder for the 4,000 meters individual pursuit with 4:10:534, set back in 2011. A quality guy.

But what’s Ashton Lambie got to do with all that? He’s only the dude who recently slashed three seconds off Bobridge’s World record at Aguascalientes on 31st August of this year in the Pan Am Championships. His progression is an interesting one – from ‘ultra distance’ to gravel racing to grass track and now, the fastest track endurance rider in history. Here’s his tale. . .

PEZ: You’re from Nebraska – is there much of a cycling scene there – how did you get started on the bike?
Ashton Lambie:
Nebraska was a great place to start riding. It’s more scenic than most people think, low traffic, and lots of gravel roads. I saw my dad’s road bike hanging on the wall, decided to start riding it, and did my first century ride later that year. The Heat Stroke 100 in the middle of August in Nebraska on a Trek 800.

PEZ: You tried road racing but it didn’t agree with you?
I raced on an amateur team out of Omaha for a couple of years, and learned a lot. I think I just had some other things I wanted to focus on other than local crit racing. I stopped road riding during college to focus on school, but ended up getting distracted by randoneuring.

PEZ: Then you went into ‘ultra distance’ riding – how did that come about?
Honestly, I can’t remember where I heard about randoneuring, but I’ve always been a softie for a good long ride. I did get burned out on the competitiveness of road racing, and just wanted to enjoy riding bikes while competing against myself. Randoneuring is still really hard, but in the end, your only competition is the voice in your head telling you to quit. Your placing doesn’t matter, but finishing does! In 2011, I did the Colorado High Country series leading up to a 1200 kilometer ride.

PEZ: Tell us about your ‘across Kansas’ record – what’s your longest single effort?
Oh man, there’s a lot to tell. I’ve also got a good knack for coming up with crazy ideas like this. I’ve got a few more brewing, but you’ll just have to stay tuned. The crossing Kansas record came about after I had a bad race due to weather at the 2015 Trans Iowa gravel race. I was crushed, I had some good fitness, and no shortage of bad ideas! We got everything set, had more control over the event than Trans Iowa, and it went off without a hitch, (other than my audio book player dying at 03:00 am). That was mileage-wise my longest effort in one shot: 430 miles in 23 hours and 53 minutes. I’d also done 600k event in 24 hrs leading up to the 1200k brevet in around 70 hrs.

PEZ: And you did ‘gravel races’ – tell us a little about them please, are they USA Cycling sanctioned?
After I finished up school, I got married and moved to Kansas for my wife to continue her education. I ended up working at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop in Lawrence, which is a big Hotspot for gravel racing. There are local events (non-USAC) nearly every weekend during the summer, as well as the Dirty Kanza in Emporia and Gravel World’s in Lincoln. Events tend to be 100 miles, (Dirty Kanza is 200), making for a great combination of the racing (a few guys out front) and competing with yourself to finish (everyone). With the long courses and wide range of conditions, you end up riding alone often, just you and your bike and your time, kind of like individual pursuit.

PEZ: And grass track racing – how big a scene is that in the USA?
The Lawrence Grass Velodrome is a mowed track in field. It’s a great idea and the US should have a lot more of them. I borrowed a buddy’s bike and went out to try it. It’s a really fun way to ride a bike and a great initiation to track racing!

PEZ: Then hard track – that must have felt nice and smooth after all that gravel and grass?
I liked the grass track, so when my wife and I did a road trip out to San Diego for the National Flute Convention (2016), I took my friend’s bike and stopped off at a couple of tracks on the way. I was hooked and started planning out what events I could go to around the country over the next year to see if I could get to a Category 2 and go to National Championships in 2017.

PEZ: You were US Pursuit Champion within a year of starting to ride hard track; that’s pretty special, can you talk us through your progression?
My parents took a real leap of faith and got behind my crazy track idea. They decided to sponsor me through the family business – Creative Landscaping. We went down to the Florida State Championships in March of 2017 for some experience, and I ended up winning almost every event. Not through knowing what to do but just by being dumb strong. Olympian Carl Sundquist, who ran the track then, took me aside and told me to try for my Category 1 upgrade and to go to Trexlertown Velodrome in June. I followed his advice and got my Cat 1 upgrade while I was in ICU after being hit by a car. A very minor setback. I went to T-town, and anyone there will tell you I still didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was fast and I loved it. At the Nationals, under Lee Povey’s coaching, I rode my first sub 4:30 for the gold. That and my two silvers in Omnium and Points got me to Pan-Ams last year where I was very pleased with fifth. The rest is history!

PEZ: Are you a full time athlete now?
Yeah, basically. Creative Landscaping’s support and all the help from my family mean that I can focus on track. So I ride for the National Track Cycling team and do whatever small combination of road and gravel Ben Sharp thinks is a good idea. I also work a few days a week at Method Cycles in Lincoln just because I like working at a cool bike shop!

PEZ: What was your expectation going in to the Pan Ams?
Given the focus and hard work we’ve been putting in over the last six to 12 months, I fully expected to win team and individual pursuit. I knew Aguas is a fast track, so expected national records in those events as well, but the goal of a world record was just something I talked about with my wife and Clay Worthington, our head coach. That was a big one for sure.

PEZ: What was your ride schedule – you rode team and individual races – a lot of racing.
It’s been a long six weeks. I’ve been on the road racing and training since the middle of July, when we had a pre-national champs camp. We went from there to Colorado Springs for Pan Ams camp, then to Mexico.
We had two rounds of team pursuit on Wednesday, gold medal finals Thursday evening, and individual pursuit qualifiers and finals on Friday. I’m ready to get home and plant garlic at this point, maybe take a bit of a break before World Cups.

PEZ: Your 4:07; what was your game plan before that ride – did you expect to go so quickly, how did you pace it?
I went in without much expectation. Clay sat me down as the last heat was going and told me, “I’m going to call you to a 4:13 (about 15.5 second laps). That’s what you to get into the finals with my team Gav (US team mate, Gavin Hoover, ed.) But if you get down to 14.4 and feel OK, don’t shy away from the record. This is your opportunity!” I always have a fast third/fourth lap, and ended up on somewhere around 14.3 or so, which I knew was way over pace. I held it for a while, and it took several laps to come down. I remember seeing seven laps to go or so and thinking, “I don’t think I’ve ridden slower than a 15.0 yet, that’s some time in the bank.” At that point I decided to absolutely send it, and it worked out OK!

PEZ: Can we ask about your gear and rpm – or is that classified – how about average watts for the ride?
Some people get weird about that, but I don’t think it has to be a big secret. It’s not like you could throw on the same gear and get the same time; everybody is different. I usually ride a bigger gear, so I went with a 111.6 (62 x 15) for the qualifier, and 113.2 (63 x 15) for the final since it was a little warmer. Average heart rate was 192, power was 478, and cadence was 120 if you take out the start.

PEZ: Tell us about your bike; frame, wheels, tires, transmission – are you running ceramic bearings?
I’d say my gear is good, but pretty basic for a top international level. I just haven’t been doing it long enough to know what the best gear is, or how to get it. I’ve got a great Felt TK1 frameset on Campagnolo Ghibli track discs, Profile Design aero bars, SRM crankset and computer, KMC track chain, Shimano Dura Ace cogs, and Gebhart chainrings. I go big for the rings, 60-65t, for less friction on the chain.

PEZ: Have you spent time in the wind tunnel to get the best aero position?
Yes! Aero is everything, and position is a huge part of that. Not just getting it set up, but also learning how to ride in that position powerfully.

Ben Sharp with Ashton Lambie

PEZ: Can you tell us about your training going in to the Pan Ams – who coaches you?
I can’t tell too much, mostly because I trust Ben Sharp (my personal coach) and Clay Worthington (our team coach) to write the best workouts for me. I do them, I ride the ride, and trust the process.

PEZ: Tell us about the trademark mustache, please.
There really isn’t too much to tell! It’s just a style choice, like some people have longer or shorter hair. My wife likes how I look with it, I think I look better with it, so there it is. I’ve had it nearly six years,

PEZ: What are your goals for the next year or two?
After this ride weekend, I’ll definitely be focused on pursuiting, individual and team. We’ve got three World Cups to try and earn Olympic qualification points, and already have spots at the world championships for both individual and team pursuit. Good results at all of those, this year and next year, will be crucial to get us to the Olympics!

PEZ: And I believe you like a ‘wee tipple’ of Scotch, what’s your favorite dram?
Lagavulin is my favorite Scotch, but my wife and I went to Arran (beautiful island on the west coast of Scotland; Lagavulin is distilled on the island of Islay, further north than Arran, ed.) for our honeymoon. To celebrate this record I opened a special edition from them. We visited the distillery, and they have a 25 year-old finished in Sherry casks. If you make it to Nebraska, there’s a dram with your name!

Pan American Gold Medal Champions

# The more we talk to this dude, the more I like him. We’ll be keeping a close eye on those World Cup results. Big thanks to all the photographers. #

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,600 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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