Whether she’s scoping out courses, working out a race plan, or warming up, Alice Lethbridge makes sure to prepare for Zwift races.
And it pays off! You might have spotted her at the pointy end of some of Zwift’s biggest races, in the colors of Team Heino or her previous teams, Socks4Watts and Vision. She recently scored a big victory in the Premier League of the Zwift Racing League.
Lethbridge knew about Zwift through friends for several years, but she didn’t start using it herself until March 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I’d said a few months earlier that I’d never Zwift as I didn’t want to turn my training into a game,” Lethbridge says. “But when two of the men in my club that I ride a lot with were challenging each other to a Zwift TT, I couldn’t resist signing up and seeing if I could beat both.”
After joining, the London resident says she was “pleasantly surprised.” Not only did she enjoy racing, but using Zwift with voice chat software Discord allowed her to ride and chat with friends during the pandemic.
Alice recently talked to us about her Zwift racing journey and let us in on some of her racing strategies as well.
Zwift: How long have you been racing on Zwift, and how did you get started? What was your first race like?
Alice Lethbridge: I did a couple of TTs (time trials) first and then about a week later entered a scratch race where I got a bit of a shock. Despite entering the wrong category (I didn’t understand ZwiftPower and as it was a men’s race my friend said to enter Bs) I got dropped from the start as I didn’t realize every race is a sprint off the line. I was soon “picked up” by Vision racing team and did my first proper women’s race at the start of May in the Frenchy Fuzion League, and then my first “Pro-Am” at the end of May. Simultaneously I had also started the WTRL TTTs (team time trials), where I helped set up the Socks4Watts women’s race team. Those were a lot of fun and I do miss them. Hopefully we’ll be back in the winter.
Z: Tell us about your outdoor racing experience. Do you find that your outdoor racing helps you on Zwift, and/or that your Zwift racing helps you outdoors? If so, how? Are there any tips you'd give to someone used to racing outside?
AL: My background is mainly in time trials and hill climbs so I know how to suffer! When I first started on Zwift, though, my short-term power wasn’t good enough and I was getting dropped on 1-5 minute climbs, as you can’t catch back up the way you can IRL. So Zwift racing has massively developed my short-term power. I’m mainly concentrating on road racing now and we’ve not had many races yet but I’ve had a 4th place in the first road race back in the UK and a 3rd place in a handicap crit, and have set 1-minute and 5-minute PBs (power bests) outside and lots of new hill PBs. The Zwift racing definitely helped me instigate a break early on in the road race, and break away from my group at the finish of the crit race.
Z: A few weeks ago, you won a stage of the Zwift Racing League with a late, daring solo attack. Was that pre-planned? What was going through your head at that moment?
AL: Yes, I knew I was going to go hard there from the recon I’d done. I was tired, but I knew everyone else would be too. I always have a plan, that was just the first time I really committed and was able to execute it. What was going through my head? Just to keep pushing the pedals and fight the pain!
Z: How do you judge when to make an attack or try to force a split in a race?
AL: I get to know the course and I work out where suits my strengths. Before the race, Lars (team DS, “directeur sportif”) will give us a team plan and often discuss it with us individually too. During the race I just wait for the “Alice… how are your legs…?” I’m very lucky to have an amazing DS and super teammates who can work with me and that’s what makes the races so much fun.
Z: What have you learned NOT to do in a Zwift race? Is there any advice you’d give to racers about what to avoid?
- The highest w/kg (watts per kilogram) does not win the race so don’t waste effort. You need to master Zwiftcraft too (easier said than done).
- Solo/ small breakaways in Zwift are much harder to make stick than IRL (in real life). It’s most often a waste of energy to try and go solo.
- Hang on as long as you can. 99% of the time once you’re dropped, you’re dropped, but often you can find the little bit extra if you really push yourself.
Z: What’s your favorite Zwift race course and why?
AL: I really like the Innsbruck climb - just under 20 minutes, a bit flatter than the Watopia Epic QOM and so many interesting things in the landscape. I also like going up the Alpe du Zwift as you can just get into a rhythm. I have a love-hate relationship with Richmond - I don’t like it, but I seem to get my best results there. My favorite place is the Surrey Hills (in the London world), though, with Box Hill being my favorite. That’s where my outdoor riding started, and it’s where I feel most at home.
Alice's indoor setup, and racing in Richmond
Z: Do you have any pre-race rituals? How about post-race?
AL: Haha that could take up the whole article! The team were “impressed” by my Google Sheet itinerary for each race. I’m like that outdoors though too with important races. It calms the nerves!
I always do the same “openers” session in the morning before work. It lets me know what my legs are like. I do a 15-minute warm-up build from Z1 through Z5, then 3 minutes rest, then 6-8 x 40 seconds hard with 60 seconds recovery, then a 10-minute spin. I played around to find what works well for me.
I then eat the same foods at the same time pre-race. I am definitely more regulated with this than I would be with a real-life race as the evening weigh-ins create a lot of anxiety for riders, and everyone I’ve spoken to says they are similarly regulated in the day now. I then rush home, jump on the turbo to check Zwift is working (I’ve had a few issues with updates), then into race mode and warm up. Post-race I initially just want to collapse, but with Premier Division we have to check our dual recordings and send them in first. It’s hard to wind down after the races, too, so I normally end up analysing my ride data until I fall asleep.
Z: If you could invent a Zwift powerup, what would it be?
AL: The bungee cord - kind of a combination between the burrito and truck. It would stick any teammates near you to your wheel for 10 seconds and prevent anyone else drafting. It could be really exciting for attacks in races. In real life you can choose your wheel, but Zwift just randomly puts you on or shoves you off. I’d love to be able to have more control over coordinated attacks.
Z: Do you have any favorite workouts that help you in races?
AL: I hate the VO2 intervals my coach sets but they definitely help the most!
(Note: Efforts targeting VO2 max typically include Zone 5 intervals of 3 to 5 minutes long, with the same amount of rest in between. They can also include sets of repeated on/off Zone 6 intervals, like 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off, or 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off. You can make your own workout like this using the Zwift workout creator.)
Z: What's one thing (or a few, if you like) you would tell new Zwift racers to help them perform their best?
AL: Learning Zwiftcraft is just as important as your strength and power.