When Alex Morrice graduated from university this summer, she could’ve been anything she liked. She had excelled as one of the best students in her year, achieving top marks in her Natural Sciences degree. Add that to a clean sweep of A*s at A-Level, and the 22-year-old was stepping into the world with a rather enviable CV.
Still, as her friends and classmates looked to London for office jobs, Morrice found herself in a bind.
“I was doing all my exams and I was getting so anxious about the actual work,” she tells Cycling Weekly. “Thinking about job applications at the same time was impossible to balance alongside training for cycling.”
So she focused on the latter. To prop up her finances, Morrice took on a part-time job as a receptionist and joined British domestic outfit Brother UK - LDN. Little did she know that, come Christmas, she’d be signing a pro contract to join Canyon-Sram on the women’s WorldTour.
It’s funny to think that Morrice only discovered cycling at university. “I played a lot of netball throughout school,” she says. “Then after one year doing that at uni, I kind of got a bit bored with getting injured, rolling ankles and everything.
“I picked up triathlon because there’s a lot of girls that do triathlon. Not many girls were in the cycling club, so I was a bit hesitant [to join].”
That didn’t deter her, though. Before long she was heading out into the Cotswolds, dressed in the club’s vibrant yellow and blue kit. “I was pretty much the only girl,” she says. “They all kind of picked me up, taught me everything and now I’m carrying on into the world of racing.”
Competing was always high on the agenda for the 22-year-old. Growing up, she says, she and her twin sister would have fights over who was winning at various sports. This competitive childhood has proven a potent ingredient for life as an athlete. Alex has just won the Zwift Academy, while Tash is breaking into the GB rowing squad.
Once she’d finished her exams, Morrice put all her energy into racing with Brother UK - LDN.
“When I turned up at Lancaster [Grand Prix], no one was expecting me, this girl. It was actually like the only race I did that was live streamed and the commentators were like, ‘Not really sure who this girl is. Her name’s Alex Morrice. We’re trying to look up her results, she’s done a few races’,” she smiles. “That was quite funny.
“I kind of went in with no expectations. I was just really relaxed. Once all the pre-race nerves had gone, I just enjoyed the whole experience, and that’s why I think I did well.”
Well is understatement. In what was only her third ever road race, Morrice finished a narrow second at Lancaster, one of the most prestigious events in the country. Her passion, she says, is for racing outdoors. So how did she end up on Zwift?
“I started Zwifting when I was working from home,” she explains, recalling her university placement year, spent working for a bank. “The company had a cycling club that ran Zwift rides every week. I thought of it as quite a nice way to meet more people at work.
“I wasn’t really sure at the time how Zwift worked. I was learning on the go. We were just doing a group ride and then suddenly there’d be this sprint segment. I was like ‘Is everyone meant to sprint?’ So sometimes I’d be panicking like, ‘I need to sprint! I need to sprint!’. So then I’d sprint and there’d be no-one around me. And then they’d just see my numbers and be like, ‘Whoa’.”
The Zwift Academy, an annual competition where two users of the app win a pro contract, had always been on her radar.
“I saw the episodes and I was like ‘That could be me, I’m sure. Maybe next year I could make it.’ I always had it in the back of my mind and at the end of the season, I got quite good form from racing, so I gave it my best shot.”
Morrice eased through the qualifying stages of the competition and was selected to travel to Denia, Spain for finals week, which she bluntly says was “intense”.
“I was like ‘Oh my, these girls are really strong. I’ve got no idea if I’m any good compared to them.’”
As it turned out, she fared very well. Morrice performed consistently across all challenges and was praised by Canyon-Sram’s lead sports director, Magnus Bäckstedt, for having “a real feeling for the race moment”.
She also showed great resolve, coming back from a dramatic crash and road rash to place second in a mountain time trial on the challenging Coll de Rates.
Asked how she’d describe her riding style, Morrice says she sees herself as an all-rounder. “I think I definitely believe that more from finals week,” she says. “I think I’ve got a really decent kick on me, but I’m still learning my best attributes as a rider. I think it takes time to figure out exactly which intervals you’re best at. I definitely have a good explosive power, which I’m wanting to work on and make even stronger.”
Having just signed her new contract, the 22-year-old is now counting down the days until her first team camp in January. “Lots of races are already in the diary,” she says. “I feel like I’m ready.”
And so she should. Morrice has spent 2022 cutting her teeth in road and crit races, finding time in between for turbo sessions and exam revision. She’s excited by the new season, but finds it hard not to feel daunted by the prospect of joining the pro ranks.
“Obviously you’re the Zwift Academy winner,” she says. “You’ve not had to fight your way into a professional team.
“It’s just this opportunity that no one else has had. The previous winners know what it feels like, but yeah, it’s just coming in and feeling like you deserve to be there. I don’t know, it might be a challenge.”
If the pro peloton proves to be anything like university, she’ll likely find it a breeze.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1