Queensland’s Lesa Ashford sets record as first woman to cycle around Australia solo

Queensland’s Lesa Ashford sets record as first woman to cycle around Australia solo

Lesa Ashford is reunited with her grandchild after becoming the first woman to circumnavigate Australia

Posted on 12.06.2023

Lesa Ashford has become the first woman to cycle a lap around Australia solo.

She has become the first woman to complete a solo point-to-point circumnavigation of Australia using a bicycle.

Ms Ashford embarked on her 14,100-kilometre journey to South Bank on International Woman’s Day, March 8, last month.

She arrived to balloons and cheering as family and friends gathered under the Wheel of Brisbane at 12:44pm on Thursday.

“It’s a bit unreal. I didn’t expect this many [people] actually,” she said.

A person holds a party popper and a stream across an urban bitumen road, with traffic lights and construction in the background.
The finish line is set for Lesa Ashford as she completes the last leg.()

 

Ms Ashford told ABC Radio Brisbane there were some “very” close calls throughout her journey.

“There’s nothing glamorous about doing what I did,” she said.

“Having bridges about this close to my handlebars, and a semi this close — that [happened] over and over and over and over again.

“[There were some] very close calls, and that was with a follow car [in front of me].”

Ms Ashford has said she completed the journey “to empower and inspire women to keep at their chosen sports not just for health benefits but also for themselves”.

“I’m starting for the women and finishing for the women,” she said.

A woman cycles down bitumen, with construction work behind her.
Ms Ashford is encouraging others to try to beat her record.()

Setting a world record

As the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo by bicycle, Ms Ashford has now set the standard for all future world records in the category.

That means all women attempting to beat her record must start and finish at South Bank and meet certain waypoints along the same route.

“There was some talk about me needing extra distance, but I’m not a bloke, I’m a woman, so I’m setting the distance, and I’m setting the time,” she said.

A woman wearing in a cycling suit, wearing sunglasses celebrates with arms out.
The moment Ms Ashford crosses the line at South Bank in Brisbane.()

The men’s record is held by 37-year-old Brisbane man Reid Anderton who completed the 14,178-kilometre journey in 37 days, 1 hour, and 18 minutes.

In addition to the Road Record Association of Australia, Ms Ashford’s record is being overseen by the United States-based World Ultracycling Association.

Ms Ashford said she could have ridden faster, but it would not have been as safe.

“Any woman who wants to go out and beat this [record], I say please come and talk to me because I’ll tell you where it is unsafe and you should get in the car and call [that leg] an unsafe one,” she said.

“Definitely from Northampton down to Geraldton [in Western Australia], I just would not do that section. There is nowhere for you to hide.

“If there are two semis going both ways, there’s just no way.”

A sweaty woman in cycling gear smiles in half-shock as she is surrounded by smiling friends and family.
The record-setting journey “wasn’t glamorous”, Ms Ashford says.()

Ms Ashford aimed to cover at least 210 kilometres each day, with a deadline to be back in Brisbane before Mother’s Day on May 14.

Recent flooding and road damage across the Top End added to the extraordinary challenge of covering the enormous distance.

A woman in a cycling suit is emotional as she embraces a woman with the words "CREW" on the back of her shirt.
It was an emotional moment for Ms Ashford.()

Family, friends celebrate

Father Noel Ashford said he was “really nervous” as his daughter completed the last leg.

“I think she’s already talking about the next long ride. I don’t want to hear it, but she’s doing it,” he said.

A crowd of men and woman holding brightly coloured balloons stand on steps outside the ABC in South Bank.
Crowds await for Ms Ashford to cross the finish line at South Bank.() 

Daughter Ally Beasley said she had been following her mother’s journey “every step of the way”.

“She’s amazing; it’s just such a surreal thing,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe that she would do something like this when she started riding, and now she’s done it.”

 

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