For Lachlan Morton, conventional is the grain he strives to work against. Like opting to take a two-year hiatus from the top tier of professional cycling so he was able to spend more time exploring by bike. Ultimately, he came back to cycling’s top level after finding new perspectives.
For 2019 Morton is set to re-join the EF Pro Cycling family, and he’s itching to get back on the road and start what’s going to be an unconventional year for the team within World Tour cycling.
In his break from the WorldTour, Morton and his brother set off on long expeditions and crafted the “Thereabouts” documentaries. The rides and filmmaking allowed Lachlan and his brother Gus to connect with his bike in a different way. Over long-distance rides, human connections are made with people one may never normally encounter. These connections are an important element to Morton when he’s riding and racing his bike.
“A lot of people have connected with me through the Thereabouts stuff because it’s relevant to them. A lot of the time when I’m racing I don’t feel like I’m really relevant to a lot of cycling fans. I don’t know, I just feel like I’m not really connecting with the cycling world on a greater level,” he said.
This is where Morton hopes the alternative race program for the EF Pro Cycling team can make a difference.
That exploration and creativity serve as a counterbalance to every detail of one’s life being measured and analyzed when racing and training at the elite level. Morton is in the process of pulling a trip together for next month, in which he plans to ride from Albania to Istanbul via Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, and Bulgaria. He gets a thrill out of the planning of these trips, and that’s part of the appeal.
“Just things like looking at Google Maps and digging into new roads, even that process I find really exciting,” he said. “We’ll be riding across places that I’ve never really wanted or thought about going to, and they’re definitely not associated with bike riding. I think that’s also part of the appeal, just going to an area of the world that I’ve never thought about much and riding through to see what it’s about.
“Even just from a roads perspective, in the first few days to get across the Albania Alps you have to hike a section because there’s not a road there. I like the idea of you’re just going into the unknown.”
It’s clear to see that the bike-packing phenomena has gotten under his skin and he gains a huge amount from it.
“It’s a hard thing to articulate perfectly. But essentially you’re broadening your horizons through a familiar tool but in a totally different direction. I can come back from doing something like that and just have a new perspective on the bike, on the world, on myself,” he said. “But once I get back into a race I love it. To be in a race it’s a very consuming thing to be a part of, but I don’t think anyone would get to the top level of cycling without having that innate want to compete once you’re in it.”
The EF Pro Cycling and Rapha partnership and the alternative race program for next year, for Morton, is a perfectly crafted bridge, linking his World Tour goals and thirst for exploration and new challenges.
“I think the most exciting thing is they [EF Education First] really see the untapped value that’s sitting there in cycling. A lot of other sponsors haven’t really been able to tap into it,” noted Morton. “They’re really committed to growing it and in turn they’ll grow the sport as a whole.”
Having started his research into the different types of races that are out there, there are some that Morton thinks he’ll take to like a duck to water — the likes of Dirty Kanza or the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, say — and others he knows will be a challenge. The team’s specific alternative race calendar is in the works currently.
Morton is not only enthusiastic about what lies ahead with the race programme for 2019, he’s happy about coming back to a team that feels so familiar. There are bonds with people within the team that he forged as a 20-year-old, back in 2011, when he was a part of the Slipstream development squad – Chipotle-First Solar Team.
“They’re just a good group of people who have a pretty broad understanding of the world outside of cycling, which I think is important and motivating to be involved with, and what I’m looking forward to most if I’m honest,” Morton said. “It looks like they’re having a lot of fun while they’re out there racing. They’re performing at a really high level, which I think those things go hand in hand and I’m excited to be part of that.”
As the 2019 season kicks off, EF Pro Cycling and Rapha will be straying off the conventional path and it suits Morton just fine.
“I hope that we can successfully create that connection that makes World Tour cycling more relevant,” Morton said. “And personally, I hope to be able to be competitive and get results in races from say, the likes of Dirty Kanza, way up to the likes of the Tour of Spain. That would be really cool”.