Lachlan Morton reflects on the Alt Tour.
Athlete: Lachlan Morton :: Team: EF Education-NIPPO :: Bike: Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD
From the comfort of a warm, dry room in Boulder Colorado, we caught up with Lachlan Morton reflecting on his experiences from the Alt Tour and the impact his efforts have had on the world. Countless people diverted their attention from the sanctioned tour to pay attention to what Lachlan had ventured out to accomplish: completing the entire Tour de France Route, self-supported, with an added 2,400 kilometers in distance and 15,000 meters of climbing, and no rest days.
Lachlan finished the Alt Tour 5 days ahead of the peloton, riding for 220 hours over 18 days, covering 5,510 kilometers (3,424 miles) with 65,500 meters (214,895 feet) of climbing. The effort resulted in over £505k EUR ($591k USD!) donated by the public to the World Bicycle Relief Organization.
The momentum will continue with a prize draw of the actual Cannondale SuperSix Evo-Hi Mod bike that Lachlan completed the Alt Tour on. Sign up here. The prize draw is hosted by World Bicycle Relief and features Lachlan’s bicycle, which Cannondale and EF Education-NIPPO donated to WBR. Patrons can purchase prize draw entries for £25 per ticket and can buy as many as they’d like to increase their chances of winning the prize. The bike will go to one lucky winner, and the overall proceeds will benefit the World Bicycle Relief to add to the ever-growing financial total resulting from the Alt Tour.
Lachlan has a genuine passion for bicycles and a keen understanding of their ability to impact and change lives globally. He had an intimate experience in 2016 in West Cape, South Africa that impacted him greatly.
LM - “We were handing over between 50-150 bikes. They were both days that I will never forget, ya’ know?!
It was a big deal when I got a new bike, and I was a very privileged kid. So to see kids who have very little, be given something really big, like probably the biggest thing they’d probably ever been given in their life, was special.”
It’s so funny, because you do this bike handover, and then it’s like ‘Let’s go ride!’ And you’re like, ‘Oh shit! We can ride now?!’ And then we just get on and ride! It’s amazing. So incredible. And I’m very aware of how a bike can change lives, I mean, it changed my life greatly. It’s hard to get my head around what 1000 bikes would look like in the field.”
Recalling these life-altering experiences and wanting to continue to impact positive change through cycling, Lachaln proposed a partnership with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) in an effort to raise money via the anticipated awareness that the Alt Tour would garner. Rapha and Team EF Education- NIPPO pledged to donate 1000 bikes to global communities who have only ever walked or ran as a means of transportation.
LM - “Going and riding the Alt Tour, in a lot of ways, was just about something I liked doing (riding bikes). So, it’s not like I sacrificed a bunch of things to go and, ya’ know, raise money. There were a lot of people involved in the cause. And ultimately it was the people who gave money. So it’s really nice to see that the cycling community came together to do it. Really, I was just kinda like... the excuse, haha!”
The word “adversity” never really crossed Morton’s mind during his adventure across the country of France. Not that his journey was absent of physical discomfort or times of mental drudgery. Yet, he self-describes the feat as one that was ‘self-imposed,’ and that focusing on extrinsic motivations to complete the mission would betray the purity of his intentions.
LM - “All your motivation needs to be internal, or very largely internal, if like: A- you’re gonna be successful at what you’re doing. And B- if you are gonna enjoy the process, even when it’s difficult. That’s what I go to when it’s hard.”
“The reality is, when doing anything ultra enduring, or with any extreme physical undertaking, is that 10% is really nice, but the rest is like, pretty grim ya’ know? Sometimes there are super-nice photos of the sunrise with you cruising along, but people don’t realize that you haven’t been able to sit down for the first 45 minutes (after de-saddling for the day), because your ass is so sore! Or you have to pedal at a 40 (RPM) cadence for 30 minutes before your knees allow you to do anything more.”
“But these are small difficulties that you have to overcome. And ultimately in the scheme of everything that’s going on in the whole world, if you get overwhelmed by your small self-imposed difficulties, it’s really pretty ridiculous, ya’ know?”
Finding time for a cold beer, grabbing a baguette from a fresh local bakery and an icy coke were welcomed samples of universal comforts enjoyed by Morton. Given the nature of self-supporting the feat, he exercised these freedoms when needed to take inventory of his body and equipment.
LM - “It was nice to stop for a second. And for some reason, when you taste a cold beer, it feels like you kinda go back to normal life for a second. Usually it was like, five minutes, and then you get back to it, and that’s enough.”
“My plan was always to finish the day’s ride by 7 or 8pm. By the time I’d done all the things I needed to do by the end of the day, I would still have an hour, sometimes an hour and a half to just kinda relax. So I wasn’t super rushed. I would normally go to sleep at like, between 10:30 and 11 pm. And then I slept like a baby.”
Mentally gearing up for a 12 hour rideevery day wasn’t what Lachlan dreaded the most each morning. It was physically packing up the gear that enabled him make it through each night, semi-comfortable and seldom dry.
LM - “The first 2 hours of the day were the hardest 2 hours, generally. You feel like you’re 150 years old, haha! You wake up and everything hurts, and you’re like, ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ And because I was getting up so early, everything would still be wet from the dew and the rain. You’re wrapping everything up wet, knowing you’re gonna have to air it all out later. Plus it weighs twice as much.”
“Riding for 12 hours a day each day is tough for sure, but it’s somewhat straightforward. But when you add in the fact that you’re carrying stuff, you gotta keep everything charged, you gotta keep everything clean, make your bed, that’s the big challenge. And because (the tour) was so long, you can’t like, cut corners, ya know? Because it will catch up with ya. And each day you’re thinking, ‘Surely I’ll get better at this,’ but it takes the same amount of time every day. On the whole, packing was a pretty big part of the challenge.”
“But the idea of doing this self-supported was my own. So, I kinda wanted that added challenge to take my mind off ‘just riding.’ You end up focusing not so much on just ticking off kilometers, and thinking ‘ok, I’ve gotta get water here,’ or ‘ok I need to find dinner somewhere here,’ and when I get in, I gotta dry everything. It also forces way more interaction with the place you are in, and the people who are there. But that’s the experience I was after.”
“What in the hell are you doing out here?” is not something Lachlan heard as often as he might have thought riding solo in sandals through the French countryside. Instead he experienced a unanimous sense of openness, seemingly as a result of just being on a bicycle.
LM - “There’s something about being on a bike that immediately breaks down a bunch of barriers. People were just sort of friendly! They see you’ve got your stuff on your bike and they’re like, “This guy could be no harm.” Haha! And when they see how tired you look, or how dirty you are, they can sense the need for food or the situation you’re in, and then people are generally like, really friendly. It’s like a basic compassion thing.”
“I had this idea being in rural France that people might be rude. But ultimately, I thought that because I don’t speak French but that's my problem. But I didn’t encounter any of that. People were really nice, friendly, and just plain accommodating.”
In the grand scheme of things, the cycling community is small. As much as riding a bike means to all of us, the majority of the world goes about its day focusing on a variety of tasks to fill their days and make their ends meet. The enjoyment of seeing the world from the vantage point of behind the bars is a commonality we all share in cycling. Lachlan wanted to accentuate this experience, which was part of his initial motivation and plot to do the Alt Tour. Racing through the expanse of France locked in a peloton at mostly maximal effort didn’t appeal to Morton and would only detract from the essence of his intentions.
LM - “I like the experience that I just got to observe everyone going about normal life. I got to live a small snapshot of, like, 2pm in a small village in southern France. You’re there for like 15 minutes, eating a baguette, and then you keep moving.”
“The majority of these people don’t really know what you’re doing, even if it’s big in the cycling world. Which is nice! It’s nice to have things put into context. Because then, the enormity of what you’re trying to do is brought back down to reality. Really, it’s something a lot of people would just love to do (Ride their bike through the country) but they just can’t get time off work to do it!”
They say you should never meet your heroes. Chances are they will disappoint you by not being motivated by what you would assume motivates them to be great. Or their personality isn’t what you would have hoped. Lachlan himself doesn’t fancy the word “heroes,” and has been subject to not only meeting cyclists he looked up to in his youth but competing against them.
LM - “Once I made it into the World Tour Peloton, things sort of shifted for me. I then didn’t have any big heroes inside of cycling. Since then, I’ve found other interesting athletes, doing things in other sports that I found more interesting, ya know? Initially when I saw Kilian Jornet doing things in the running and skiing world, and mountain endurance activities in general, challenging himself outside of competition. I thought that was really interesting.”
“Other athletes in that sort of space inspired me more. Even Josh Bryceland in the mountain bike world to turn his back on racing and chase his new goals, all those things take a lot of courage and also dedication to the craft.”
“I don’t know if I’d call them ‘heroes,’ because the thing I became aware of when I started to meet my cycling heroes, that everyone was very forward. Haha! The idea of a ‘hero’ is that they’re perfect, and I think it’s more healthy to be like, ‘I like what they’re doing.’ I can draw inspiration from that.”
“There are performances in road cycling that I get inspired by. But that doesn’t motivate me as much as it did when I was a 15-year-old kid. I’d rather explore different parts of cycling, that I’ve sort of become aware of, that motivate me to get up and go ride!”
“Really, if I’m being honest and genuine, I just get bored of some things. So that’s how my process goes. I need a new stimulus.”
We were caught off guard when Lachlan recounted his memories and experiences of the Alt Tour. Why is it that when we do something fun, or sometimes challenging, we download the memories and reflect on them in hindsight? Seeming to log the highlights and discard the rest. Perhaps it’s because we are moving quickly and distracted by the stimulus of hectic surroundings. Maybe the default mechanism in our brains discards the adversity in order to cater to our preconceived expectations of enjoyment prior to the adventure.
LM - “I’ve got a lot of memories, to be honest, it was a long time up there. It all becomes one big experience, in a way. So, you end up with a bunch of stories, but in the end I try to have it as one experience.
“It was overwhelmingly a positive one. I mean, I had a lot of tough moments, and a lot of things that I was worried would happen, did happen. I was kind of able to just deal with them as they came, and nothing really overwhelmed me. Mechanically I had very little trouble. I had like, 9 flat tires, which isn’t really that many If you think about the distance.”
“You process everything you’ve done, which I was able to do during the course of the ride, which was really nice. By the time I had finished, I hadn't had much interaction with anyone outside of my family, and the few people I met along the way. I wasn’t on social media, in fact, my phone was on ‘airplane mode’ for all but an hour of the day. So I was able to have my own experience, and then it was all wrapped up and concluded by the time I got to Paris.”
“In my mind, I knew what I had got out of it, and what it was. And I was very happy with how I had put it together. Once you spend a week talking about it, it’s easy to dilute the experience and just focus on the highlights and some lowlights, and the snapshots. But being able to process it all beforehand was nice!”
“The most common questions are, ‘What was the hardest bit? What was the nicest bit?’ And I have answers that I can give people. They want to hear about the sunset on top of a mountain, the Champs Elysees, or when you got a flat tire in the rain, with 250k to go...and you had no shoes. Everyone loves those little snapshots, but those bits don’t make sense without the rest.”
Hold the champagne! With the Champs Elysees in sight, and despite thousands of kilometers traveled in distance, rivaled with thousands more in ascended elevation, Morton knew the sight of his wife and a small crowd didn’t signal the end.
LM - “My wife was there on the Champs Elysees. And when I rolled up, people were like ‘Yay! You’re here! It’s done!’ But I knew I still had like 50 or 60k of laps to do. I know how my brain works, and I can’t let my guard down. Otherwise you’re gonna have 2 miserable hours bouncing around!”
“So I stopped very briefly to give my wife a hug. But then I was like, ‘Look I gotta keep going, it’s not done.’ But once I finished all the laps, it was great! Like I said, for me it was the perfect conclusion, because I had already wrapped it up in my head.”
“So we sat there for a second, drank some champagne, and then just walked to the hotel. I had a shower, and breakfast was opening, and I had some eggs, and it was complete!”
“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”This is one of my favorite quotes in the original Willy Wonka film, originating from Roald Dahl. A befitting conclusion to the perceptive conversation I had with Lachlan. I think another quote from the classic film is just as suitable, which also happens to appear towards the end of the Chocolatier’s tale: “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” While Lachlan Morton wouldn’t consider his feat as anything other than a man riding his bike and challenging his personal capabilities, we all know that the Alt Tour was so much more than that.