Ashton Lambie missed the world record — and his goal of finishing in less than 4 minutes — by three seconds.
A competitive track cyclist and Lincoln native, Lambie was devastated after the attempt earlier this month.
He had one more shot at making the record on the indoor cycling track.
With adjustments to his technique and schedule, and some encouragement from his partner Christina Birch, Lambie tackled the course again. That time he broke the world record and finished in less than 4 minutes.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” Lambie said.
Lambie, now 30, started dabbling in bike races when he was 15. By college, he was tackling ultradistance and gravel races.
“You’re not necessarily racing against other people,” he said. “You’re just racing against the clock. There’s no more consistent and less-caring opponent than the clock. It’s just you against time, and I love that aspect of it.”
While living in Lawrence, Kansas, Lambie found a grass velodrome for track cycling. Velodromes, typically made of wood, are racing tracks with steep banks.
Lambie netted some track records on the grass track.
In 2017, he won the individual pursuit national championship. He went on to join USA Cycling’s National Team.
In 2018, Lambie set a world record in the individual pursuit category. He finished with a time of 4:07.25, beating the previous time of 4:10.53.
Since learning that the U.S. track cycling team didn’t qualify for this year’s Tokyo Olympics, Lambie set his sights on lowering the world record once again.
Lambie found a nice area in which to train in Montana, where he lives with Birch. Without a velodrome nearby, he had to replicate the experience on a stationary bike. He also sprinkled in strength-training routines and focused on nutrition.
In early August, Lambie headed to Aguascalientes, Mexico, with a few other riders after getting approval from the sport’s governing body. He said the velodrome there is known for being fast.
Lambie spent a few days adjusting to the altitude and learning the track. He worked with the owner of a local cycling shop to get his bike in order.
Birch, also a professional cyclist, joined him a week later.
On Aug. 17, Lambie attempted the record on the track. Those present included an official who was timing the attempt, as well as a handful of spectators. Birch livestreamed the ride for family, friends and fans back home.
Lambie rode 4 kilometers, or about 2.5 miles, in 4 minutes and 2 seconds. It was a personal best, but not the sub-4 he was hoping for.
Lambie left the track wondering how he could possibly make another attempt the next day. Birch stepped in, offering heaps of encouragement.
“She was like, ‘You’re going to do this and you’re going to crush it.’ She’s been there before,” Lambie said. “She’s been under that incredible kind of pressure where thousands of people are watching you make split-second decisions.”
Lambie refueled that night and took it easy. He tweaked his routine the next morning before the final try at breaking the record.
As he rode, Lambie said he had no idea whether he was on track to break the record. He was laser-focused on his execution and pacing.
He still didn’t know he broke the record until he slowed to a stop a few laps after finishing. Lambie was timed in 3:59.93.
“It was just a crazy sense of relief,” he said. “I still don’t think it’s fully set in. It’s really pushing the boundaries of what people are capable of.”
That night, he celebrated with dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The next day, Lambie and Birch hopped on a flight back to the U.S.
Now Lambie is looking forward to finishing out the racing season in October at the world championships.
“It’s awesome to be able to bring awareness to the sport and be able to represent the Midwest,” he said. “I know I don’t live there right now, but people know me as that kid from Nebraska.”
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