Last week Ashton Lambie announced his plan to take on the Men's Individual Pursuit 4 minute barrier on the 18th of August at the Aguascalientes Velodrome in Mexico, and in the process take the world record from Filippo Ganna.
Ashton previously held the record with a time of 4:05.423, which he set in 2019. In recent years World Tour Time Trial superstar, Filippo Ganna, has continually lowered the bar taking the record down to 4:01.934 with an astonishing display of power and pacing. With Ganna moving over to a more road focused calendar with trade team INEOS Grenadiers and Team USA men's squad not qualifying for the Team Pursuit at the Olympics, the door has been left ajar for Ashton to be the first man to lower the record to a scarcely believable sub 4 minutes.
We sat down with Ashton to talk through his preparations leading up to the attempt and how he feels about his unorthodox approach to gaining peak form. As many of you may know, Ashton is not your regular track rider who would pair time on the boards with a road team. In fact, Ashton spends the majority of his time on his Lauf gravel bike.
At the time of this discussion, Ashton found himself in Iceland ahead of a gravel event – The RIFT – a 100km gravel ride through the beautiful Icelandic wild escapes with one of his sponsors. Certainly not what you would expect from a rider one month out from attempting to break a world record on the track, but an event we're confident many would love to experience!
Having been part of the British UCI track team, HUUB Wattbike, Ashton quickly became accustomed to a more unorthodox way of thinking. From day one, he bought into the philosophy and joined the team to hunt for World Cup gold.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people as an athlete can majorly impact performance, and when Ashton was living in Derby in the team house he fed off that knowledge base. For Dan, at times it may have been more like a constant Q&A session, but the environment empowered all team riders to raise their game to the next level.
"Working with Dan and training with those guys like you can see pictures of me for the first world record in Mexico, and my position is dramatically different to what it is now. It's insane!"
Did Ashton take notice of aerodynamics before joining the team?
"I mean, yeah, it was something where I was like kind of aware that it was a thing, but I wasn't aware of how important aerodynamics was, or big of a difference it could make, it just shows that it can transform you as an athlete."
Ashton is just one example of how the gaps between athletes are getting closer through the accessibility and acceptance of aerodynamics and realising the performance benefits of lowering your coefficient of aerodynamic drag (CdA). We asked Ashton his thoughts on closing the gap to Filippo Ganna,
"As an athlete, he's on another level. He's taller, more muscular and has more power than I do, and to be in the same ballpark as him is just amazing. That being said, I am realistic about my attempt. We have run the numbers; it's doable and especially at altitude. I have the fastest equipment in the world, and that's where I know I will have the advantage."
Hong Kong played host to the first UCI Track Nations Cup event this year and despite the challenges of travelling across the globe mid pandemic Ashton took home the gold medal with a time of 4:05.136 - impressive when you consider the USA team travelling over found themselves stuck in an airport for over 30 hours en-route to Hong Kong.
This event also posed as one of importance for us here at WattShop. It was one of the final testing phases for our Cratus Aero Crank. Crucial to the product's development, Ashton's feedback was taken on board and processed by the team. The crank being used in Mexico will complete the feedback cycle where Ashton's recommendations have been actioned and implemented in to the final product for the record.
It is evident through talking with Ashton that balancing passion with performance is key to success. Cycling started as a passion but naturally progressed into a profession. To maintain the right psychological balance of training and rest required to be a full-time athlete, he finds himself tackling very different projects. Most recently, a 90's camper conversion.
"It's another example of finding that balance. We love big projects, and this was no different, but it allowed my partner Christina and I to have a break from the bike when we needed it." - Ashton on why he undertook the conversion.
We asked Ashton if exploring his creative side showed a benefit to his performance. His thoughts were quite honest and relative to the times we live in, "I don't think you can spend 100% of your time on the turbo trainer, whilst there is the benefit to training hard you need to take some time to restore mentally. Otherwise, I don't believe you fully absorb the work you've just spent hours putting in." Quite relevant perhaps for cyclists who have been training indoors throughout the numerous lockdowns we have had to endure over the past 18 months. It's refreshing to see athletes like Ashton realise when their body needs a break and a bit of a bounce back.
With the Olympics in full flow, it's only fitting that we answer the question a lot of you may be wondering - why isn't Ashton at the Olympics?
Well, the answer is simple. For the first time and rather controversially the Individual Pursuit no longer features at the Olympics in any capacity, and the USA Team Pursuit squad unfortunately didn't qualify for Tokyo. For Ashton and his teammates this is of course hugely disappointing. However, it gave him a chance to reset his goals and take the opportunity to explore other avenues.
"It was time for a different approach. I amicably parted ways with my cycling coach after the Olympic qualifying. I started working with him to go there. He approached me and said, if you are done with this and want to do other stuff, do it. I learned a lot from him. It was a natural time for transition. Afterwards, I was like, okay, I'm going to do my own thing for a while, focusing on different training zones, building anaerobic capacity, fewer long rides and more gym work with my strength coach Chris Dellesaga. So, it's great, but it can be frustrating, you know, being in cool places like here in Iceland with great people and not going to ride 230km a day. I think it's probably for the best - for the time being anyway. I need to get better at taming my inner explorer."
Be sure to head over to our Instagram for a live discussion with Ashton and Dan later today* at 5pm BST, or check out our Instagram TV to catch it afterwards.
*1st August 2021