Nebraska Cyclist is World Champion and World Record Holder

Dec. 14, 2021, 5 a.m. ·

Ashton Lambie on a bike and wearing a red, white and blue bike helmet races around a steep wooden track.
Ashton Lambie breaking the 4000M world record in Mexico in August 2021 (Photo by Kit Karzen)

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Ashton Lambie on a bike with one arm raised as he rides on a steep wooden track.
Ashton Lambie winning the 4000M Individual Pursuit at the 2021 world championships in France. (Photo by Alex Whitehead/
Ashton Lambie in a bike racing suit partially unzipped in front of a bike track holding a sign that shows his new world record time.
Ashton Lambie became the first cyclist to ride 4000M faster than 4 minutes. (Photo by Kit Karzen)

A Nebraska man is a world champion and fastest ever in a sport you’ve likely never seen.

In October, cyclist Ashton Lambie went to France and won a world championship in the 4,000 meter individual pursuit track event. It’s a race where riders start on opposite sides of a 250-meter banked track and try to catch each other. Two months earlier he was in Mexico, setting a world record at the same distance. Not a bad couple months for the Waverly native and Hastings College graduate.

“Yeah, getting both those things is huge,” Lambie said. “I'm excited to be able to represent Nebraska on a big stage. I hope everyone else is as excited about it as I am.”

First, the world record. This year Lambie became the first rider to ever go below four minutes, averaging more than 37 miles-an-hour for the roughly two-and-a-half-mile race. Sub-four was something he targeted by changing how he trained, moving away from long rides and training more like a middle distance runner.

“Really targeted the energy systems required to go four minutes,” Lambie said. “It was a lot of gym, it was a lot of specific intervals and really for most mile runners probably pretty standard training, but for a lot of cyclists, it was very different from the training I've been used to doing.”

Lambie had broken the record before. He became the first rider under 4 minutes and 10 seconds in 2018, then set new marks twice in 2019. But when he was setting these marks, he didn’t envision riding faster than four minutes.

“No, probably not. I knew I had room to grow,” he said, “but I mean to go from a 4:10 to a 4:07, and then be like, ‘Oh yeah, dude, double that.’”

Intense training for the world record left Lambie a little burned out. So in the weeks before the world championships he did more long road rides and virtual races on an indoor bike.

“Between Mexico and France, I didn't touch my track bike at all until I got to France,” Lambie said. “Just kind of took a break, took it easy for a little bit. Did some different training. Yeah. It worked out great.”

Winning his first world championship and putting on the special jersey awarded to the winner was an exciting moment for Lambie.

“It was incredible,” he recalled. “Getting the jersey on and, just anyone that knows about cycling, that jersey is a lifelong dream. And you get that for life. You'll always be a world champion. Yeah. Really special.”

Overseas, Lambie is a bigger deal than here.

“Sometimes it is kind of overwhelming to go to events and have people, especially in Europe, there's people that collect little rider cards. So they're standing outside the hotel and they're like, ‘Oh, please sign my card, please sign my card.’ I love supporting the fan base and supporting the sport, but it does get a little overwhelming sometimes. It's nice to be able to go to the Midwest and just be a normal person and it's not that big of a deal,” he said.

Astronaut Christina Birch in an astronaut suit with arms folded and flags behind her.
NASA astronaut candidate Christina Birch. (Photo courtesy NASA)

Although he broke a world record and won a world championship, Lambie jokes that his accomplishments weren't the biggest recent news in his household.

A week ago, NASA announced that Lambie's partner, Christina Birch, is part of the 10-person 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class. She begins two years of training in January. Birch, an Arizona native, received a PhD in biological engineering from MIT and was also a track cyclist for the U.S. National Team.

WATCH a video version of our story about Ashton Lambie's world record and world championship:

WATCH "One Fast Dude," our profile of Ashton Lambie from our "Nebraska Stories" series: