Lachlan Morton, into the Badlands

Spanish 700km ultra race one of extremes

“Please take into consideration that you’ll ride through deserts at temperatures close to 40º but also you’ll probably ride through snowfields and overnight close to 0º.” In Fahrenheit, that’s 104 and 32 degrees.


So warns the roadbook for Badlands, a 719-kilometer mostly off-road race that Lachlan Morton will start Sept. 6 in southern Spain.


The race will begin in Granada, a lively city still spiced with Arab flavor from its days as the Moors’ last fortress in Europe. From there, 121 riders will head north for the Sierra Nevada, crossing the Col of La Argumosa (1.290m), Collado Alguacil (1.891m), and Collado Bermeja (1.576m), before descending towards the dramatic badlands of the Hoya de Guadix and the town of Gorafe, which is famous for its cave houses and archaeological treasures.


The riders will then turn south, cross the Gorafe desert, and climb eastward into the wild peaks of the Sierra de Los Filabres, where they will pass the Calar Alto Observatory (2.168 m), and then drop down into the Tabernas Desert, where they can expect temperatures over 35ºc. They will then have to climb over the Sierra de Alhamilla mountain range, reaching the top of the Collado Colativí at 1.306m, before they descend to the Mediterranean sea and the Cabo de Gata, about halfway into the race.

The coastline there is one of the most spectacular in the world, with volcanic rock formations, abandoned villages, and cliffs that soar up from quiet beaches. The racers will head west along the shore, pass the big city of Almería, and head into the Sierra de Gádor, where they will have to cross La Lagunilla (1.498m). Then, the hard part will begin. From Pantano de Benínar, at kilometer 564, the riders will face 4000 meters of climbing in 100 kilometers, up paved roads and steep dirt paths until they reach the often snowy summit of the Veleta Pass, which is one of the highest roads in Europe at 3.202m. There’s then a fast descent and the climb of the Col of La Cortijuela (1.788m), before the final jaunt to the finish back in Granada.


With over 15,000 meters of climbing in total along the route, the organizers expect that the fastest riders will take four days. That sounds like a challenge to Lachlan Morton. He thinks he might be able to do it in two.

“I think you always learn about yourself when in these tough settings,” he says. “Your world is simplified down to you and your bike. It’s never the same, so I’m looking forward to what challenges pop up… The route captured my imagination.”


Above all, Badlands will be a personal challenge. Lachlan will have to be completely self-sufficient on the road. That means carrying his own food and supplies, fixing his bike in case of mishaps, and finding places to camp along the way. Following on from his exploits at races such as DK, the Leadville 100, GBDuro, and the Three Peaks Cyclocross, and his record-setting ‘Everesting’ ride, Lachlan is once again looking forward to seeing what he is made of.


Still, he is not just a bike rider; he is a bike racer. The competitive aspect of the event will add to the experience, Lachlan thinks.

“It heightens everything,” he says. “Your emotional brain gets amped up. To be able to compete in such a unique setting is such a privilege. The high point is over 3000 meters. It covers the only official desert in Europe and also has beach sections. It’s a part of Spain I’m not really familiar with. Also, mentally I’m craving some variety right now.”


For a win, he knows this one is going to be a tougher ask than his previous ultra effort, due to the field.


“There are some very capable ultra guys competing,” Lachlan says. “But it is largely yourself you have to overcome in these long events.”


And as we know, Lachy is good at doing just that.

Follow his ride