A 2,000 kilometer odyssey

“It’s totally unique in the format. When we came across GBDuro, immediately, I was like, ‘I want to be involved in that.'”

-Lachlan Morton

On Saturday, June 22, Lachlan MortonLachlan Morton embarks on the next leg of EF Education First’s alternative racing calendar: GBDuro.

GBDuro is a new event with an old-school vibe. As an anonymous quote on the event website puts it, the race is “best described as a scrappy rolling picnic through Britain’s ever-changing landscapes.”

It’s a really long picnic.

A bike-packing journey spread across four timed stages, GBDuro traverses the island of Great Britain. Riders will set out on a 2,000 kilometer self-supported trek from Land’s End in Cornwall, at the southwestern tip of England, to John o’ Groats, in the north of Scotland.

But… why?

“It’s about pushing the envelope to where your boundaries are. Something like this, you’re going to find them. It’s all about how you deal with them, and hopefully how that helps you grow out of it,” Morton says.

The rider who finishes the four stages of GBDuro with the lowest aggregate time wins. On offer for the victor? Nothing. Unless you count bragging rights. The challenge of taking on something so demanding is enough for Morton.

“It’s totally unique in the format,” he says. “When we came across GBDuro, immediately, I was like, ‘I want to be involved in that.'”

At its heart, GBDuro has its roots in the reliability trial—a classic test of self-reliance requiring cyclists to finish a lengthy route within a certain time frame. Run by The Racing Collective, a community of self-supported bike-packing racers, GBDuro draws inspiration from competitive cycling’s hard-knock early days, and more recent ultra-endurance rides.

“It’s all about the individual,” says Miles Resso, founder of The Racing Collective and co-organizer of GBDuro.

Physical fitness is only one piece of the puzzle. Riders will spend hours and hours navigating off the beaten path. With only around 30 participants, there won’t be a line of wheels to follow on the long, long road to the finish. Racers will have to fix their own mechanicals. Selecting exactly the right gear for such a demanding self-supported ride will be critical.

The trek from Land’s End to John o’ Groats traverses a wide array of landscapes. Organizers put together a route intended to link “Britain’s wild places with its rich industrial past.” Along the way, riders will roll past factory buildings and unblemished wilderness alike, and as a bike-packing ride, GBDuro immerses participants into the countryside both day and night.

The path through that variety of landscapes will cover a variety of surfaces, too. John o’ Groats to Land’s End is a classic ride, but GBDuro offers a unique take on it with a route that runs the gamut from paved roads to gravel to singletrack, adding technical challenges to the equation.

“It’s really going to test who can actually ride a bike, on everything from road to quite hardcore off-road—but you’re restricted in that you can only choose one bike,” Resso says. “You’ve got to have a setup that works, it’s got to be versatile, and you’ve got to have an attitude that’s versatile with it.”

That’s just what Morton is looking for out of the next leg of his alternative racing journey.

“You’re going to get it all,” Morton says. “You’re going to get the full experience. It definitely won’t be boring.”

Organizers and riders alike are heading into uncharted territory in more ways than one. GBDuro’s composition as a quartet of overlong, mixed-terrain time trials sets it apart from other long-distance, self-supported races. The fact that it’s a brand new event adds to the challenge—and the thrill of taking it on.

“It’s attracting the people that want to jump in first and see what it’s like,” Resso says. “There’s something very exciting about that. No one knows how it’s going to unfold. I think the people on the start line will share in that thirst for the unknown.”

Morton, always up for an adventure, will be part of that very select group starting on Saturday at Land’s End.

Track Morton’s progress during GBDuro.