Color Ashton Lambie and his handlebars gold (and orange)

Lawrence cyclist Ashton Lambie gained his first experience in track cycling on the grass track in Lawrence. He recently won the national title in individual pursuit and gained an invitation to represent Team USA in cycling at the upcoming Pan-American Games. (Photo by Andrew Owen White)

You might have wondered: Who is that young man with the bright-orange handlebar mustache moving so swiftly down 1750 Road on his bicycle? Don’t feel bad. There were those at the USA Cycling national championships in Carson, California, who no doubt wondered the same thing.

Not anymore.

Ashton Lambie’s days of being “that guy with the orange mustache” are behind him now that he is a national champion. He now officially is a big name in cycling. That’s what happens when you put down a time (4 minutes, 29 seconds in the 4-kilometer race) in the individual pursuit faster than any American had since Bobby Lee when he was preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Lawrence resident Ashton Lambie won gold in individual pursuit at the USA Cycling's national championshps in Carson, California. (Photo by Andrew Owen White)

A few days after winning a gold medal at what athletes refer to as, “Nats,” short for nationals, Lambie learned that he had been selected to represent Team USA in the Pan-American Games (Aug. 30-Sep. 3) in Trinidad and Tobago.

Lambie, employed by Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, was at his job when he learned of his selection. His wife, Margaret Lambie, broke the news to him. She found out by reading it on the Team USA cycling website, which Ashton had been checking periodically throughout the day as well.

It all has happened so fast for Lambie, who only took up track cycling about a year ago. Before spending the month of June in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, much of Lambie’s track experience had come at the grass track on Lawrence businessman Steve Schwada’s land west of town near Farmer’s Turnpike.

Two years ago, Lambie made his name and mustache known locally by setting the record for the quickest ride across the state of Kansas. He cycled from Colorado to Missouri in 23 hours, 53 minutes, shattering the 32-year old record by 5 hours, 59 minutes. His goal was to do it in less than a day and he did so with six-plus minutes to spare.

Lambie said he does not enjoy road and criterium races and credits local cycling enthusiast Roger Harrison with suggesting he try track racing. Good suggestion.

“I’ve done ultra-distance stuff and I’m not built like those guys,” said Lambie, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 160 pounds. “They’re super lean, really thin, wiry guys. I’ve always been a lot stockier. I’ve got really big legs.”

He’s built more like Darnell Valentine and was competing against athletes built more like Tyshawn Taylor in ultra-distance racing.

Relatively new to track racing, Lambie is convinced he will put down much lower times with experience.

For example, he said, “I need to work on lowering my head.”

Lambie, 26, came to Lawrence three years ago when Margaret chose the University of Kansas to pursue an advanced degree in music. They both graduated from Hastings College in their native Nebraska and were music majors.

His high school cross country team rode bikes as cross-training when they took days off from running and he discovered he enjoyed riding more than running. He said he did his first century (100-mile ride) at the age of 15, took time off during college and got back into it when he started working at Sunflower.

His shared how his training has changed since shifting to track racing. He said he does more interval work and has scaled back his riding time from 15-to-20 hours a week to “probably 12 to 15.”

“I haven’t done a century in probably three or four months,” he said.

Some cyclists like to listen to music while on long rides. Lambie prefers audio books.

“I listened to Lord of the Rings four or five times in the last year,” Lambie said. “My wife is a huge Lord of the Rings fan, too. We talk about it a lot. It’s such a complex book. Listening to a book that has so much adventure to it makes sense while you’re riding. You don’t want to listen to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ while you’re riding. It doesn’t really get you pumped up.”

Lambie has sported the mustache for “four or five years,” and for the record, he said his wife “loves it. I do not look very good without my mustache. It looks really bad. I’ll say that and people will say, ‘No, it’d be OK.’ Then somebody sees a picture somewhere and they’ll say, ‘God, don’t ever shave that thing.’ “

The handlebar above the handlebars makes him easy to spot on the track because track racers, forever in search of an edge, go to great lengths to make themselves as aerodynamic as possible. If facial hair doesn’t hurt in that pursuit, well, it certainly doesn’t help, so they don’t chance it.

Lambie, who does yoga as training aid, said he considers Lawrence a good place for a cyclist to live and train because of the open areas available. At the same time, he made an interesting observation as to how much a part of everyday life cycling is in Lawrence.

“It’s weird,” Lambie said. “It feels like either you’re my level where cycling is a huge part of your lifestyle or you’re broke and you only ride a bike because you can’t afford a car. And there is no middle ground. There aren’t many people who have the means to buy a car and still choose to ride as transportation, or people that just ride on a really causal level, like, ‘Oh, what do you want to do this evening?’ ‘Let’s go on a bike ride.’ Nobody does that.”

He enjoyed the Thursday night races on the Lawrence grass track and those just might have been a meaningful step in a journey that could lead him as far as Tokyo, site of the XXXII Olympiad in Lawrence. Individual pursuit is not an Olympic event, but he has proven he is a quick learner and wonders if team pursuit, or maybe two-man Madison races, could punch his ticket to Tokyo.

It’s a realistic goal for a man and his mustache bursting onto the national cycling scene so impressively.

“Just the opportunity to go to the Pan-American Games, it’s awesome,” he said. “I’d go broke for that. I never would have imagined I would get an opportunity to do something like that, especially so quickly.”