'This time last year, I was a fourth-cat': Alex Morrice on her meteoric rise from debut race to WorldTour contract

The 22-year-old gives us detailed insight into how she prepared for her successful tilt at the Zwift Academy

Alex Morrice riding - standing up and wearing her Canyon jersey
(Image credit: Leon van Bon)

Want to know how the best riders in the world train? For each article in this long-running MY WEEK IN TRAINING series from Cycling Weekly's print edition, we sit down with a pro rider who talks us through a recent week of training in granular detail. This time it's the turn of Zwift Academy winner Alex Morrice...

You’d have been forgiven for not recognising the name Alex Morrice when, shortly before Christmas, she was announced as winner of Zwift Academy 2022. The 22-year-old from Guildford in Surrey had only been racing since the beginning of the year, and until the summer was fitting in training alongside her university studies. As Morrice explains below, the past 12 months have been a whirlwind ascent from fourthcat newbie to WorldTour professional. Speaking to CW from a Canyon-SRAM training camp in Spain, she took us through a week of pre-Academy preparation from the autumn. 

How did you get into cycling? 

I’ve always been sporty but didn’t start cycling until two years ago, in my second year of uni. When the Covid lockdown [in 2020] meant I had to move home, I focused on running for a year. In my third year of uni [2021], I had a full-time placement with Morgan Stanley [the bank] and joined colleagues on Zwift rides, bought myself a bike and decided to commit to cycling. 

In your first year of road racing, 2022, you finished second in the Lancaster GP and eighth overall in the Rás. That’s fast progress! 

Yes, I know! Starting as a cat-four rider in January last year, I won a lot of smaller races and realised I was doing well. It helped that I was coached by Dean Downing, who I’d contacted through the Zwift rides I did with Morgan Stanley. In my initial week working with Dean, he put me in a ramp test [Morrice’s FTP was already 260W]. 

Was it difficult training alongside study and work? 

Yeah, it was really, really hard, as I was in my final year at uni. I had to dedicate a lot of time to studying, which I had to fit training around. I did quite a lot of Zwift rides during the week but still went to the gym twice a week. In a way, I performed better on the bike, as it was an outlet for the stress from the studies.

Rider profile: Alex Morrice

Age: 22

Height: 5ft 7in

FTP: Not supplied

Lives: Guildford, Surrey

Rides for: Canyon-SRAM

Best results: 2nd – Lancaster GP (2022); 2nd – Stage 3, Rás na mBan (2022)

Instagram: alex_morrice

Alex Morrice portait: She has long brown hair and is smiling broadly

(Image credit: Canyon-Sram)

Are you competitive with your twin sister Tash?

More encouraging than competitive, as we have different strengths. She decided to start rowing while at university, and four years later she was rowing for GB [winning silver in the Eight at the 2022 U23 World Championships]. I think it’s in our DNA to pick up sports quite quickly

When did you decide to take part in the Zwift Academy?

I watched the 2021 edition while I was starting out, and thought, ‘That’s something I could do’. It was the perfect time: I’d just graduated and it was definitely something I could see myself doing. I’d trained a lot on Zwift already and knew I’d have finished my road season by the time the Academy started.

The week: Facts and figures

When: 10-16 October 2022

Where: Guildford, Surrey

Training for: Zwift Academy

Total riding: 17hr 30min

Z3+ effort: 50min

Monday: Endurance ride – 4hr 

It was the day after the Curlew Cup [national series road race in Northumberland], so today was a general endurance ride of four hours. I went out just to spin the legs before travelling back down south. I’d never ridden around the northeast before, and remember one section that felt like 50km into a solid headwind – it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped it would be. But it was really nice being out on the moors. I wouldn’t usually ride this far the day after a race. 

Tuesday: Travel and recovery day – 1hr 

I did an hour’s really easy spin on the road after getting back home from the north. The roads of the Surrey Hills are where I usually train at the moment. This was an easy ride, listening to music, staying relaxed – though it’s hard to avoid the hills. 

Wednesday: Endurance ride plus sprints – 2hr 30min 

Today I had a proper catch up with my coach, something I try to do once a week. The training today was another solid endurance ride. My effort level was at the high end of endurance, with some sprints to keep up my fitness ahead of the Zwift Academy – I knew I needed to keep training hard at a variety of different power zones. I did six sprints, focusing on cadence and technique. 

Thursday: Hills session – 3hr 

It was a hill reps session today: a three-hour ride with five five-minute uphill efforts. It was quite a hard session. I did the hill reps on a familiar slope. Though I had a power target for the efforts, I wasn’t paying too much attention to it, as my power meter had been proving unreliable recently. These were upper-threshold reps, and I was happy to complete them all at the intended intensity. 

Friday: Endurance ride with openers – 2hr 

I did a solo two-hour steady endurance ride on Friday, as I was tapering for a hill-climb race at the weekend. So this was just endurance work with a few ‘openers’ – three sprints and three 90-second hard efforts scattered through the ride. It wasn’t too tough overall. I had no work this week, so I was freer to ride whenever I felt like it. 

Saturday: Zwift ride – 1hr 30min 

The weather was terrible today so I just did a 90-minute ride on Zwift. I’m not one for going out on the bike in torrential rain. I did the Zwift ride in the afternoon while watching the cyclo-cross on TV. I kept it easy apart from a few tempo efforts and two 30-second hard efforts, preserving my legs for the hill-climb the next day. 

Sunday: Race: Farnham RC Hill-Climb – 3hr 15min 

I rode with my boyfriend the 45km to the hill-climb in Farnham. I wouldn’t usually ride so far to a race but this one was not a particular target. It was my first hill-climb of the year, so it was just getting used to the effort again. I finished first woman [in 4:11], which is always nice, but I was slightly disappointed with my time. We rode home afterwards, stopping at a cafe, which was a nice bit of extra endurance.

This full version of this article was published in the 26 January 2023 print edition of Cycling Weekly magazine. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered to your door every week.  

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