Taking part in his first UCI race since the 2010 Halle-Ingooigem, Australia's Angus Morton, 25, finished third in stage 1 of the Jelajah Malaysia in Port-Dickson on Saturday. Tunisian national champion Rafaâ Chtioui and Moroccan national champion Adil Jelloul, both from Skydive Dubai and fresh from competing in the Tour of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, were first and second on the day.
Morton's unexpected result under the colours of St-George Merida Cycling Club followed the news that he'd return to international racing with Jelly Belly-Maxxis in the US next year alongside his younger brother Lachlan Morton, who won’t prolong his experience at WorldTour level with Garmin-Sharp.
"I got a phone call from [team manager] Brett [Dutton] on Saturday while I was training near Port Macquarie," Morton explained. "He said we're doing a race in Malaysia next week and we need some riders. I thought that's a perfect fit in my training and preparation for the next season. When you haven't been racing, what you need is racing."
A former Drapac rider from 2008 to 2010 after exiting the junior ranks, Morton had given up cycling. In the past 12 months, he was working as a TV director for a comedy show for a company called "The Chaser" but a 2500km ride in 12 days from Australia’s east coast to Uluru in the outback with his brother revived his desire to be a bike rider.
“I hadn't ridden my bike for a long time and Lachlan was questioning his place in the pro peloton," Morton said. "We rebounded each other and realised how much we love pushing each other to our limits. So I thought maybe I should make a comeback.
"Lachie didn't want to race in Europe anymore and everyone wanted to sign him, so it was good for me. We spoke to Danny [Van Haute] at Jelly Belly and he loved the idea straight away. In August, he signed us both, so I've been training since to get back in shape.
"I didn't expect to be at the front for my first race," he continued prior to jumping on stage to celebrate with Chtioui and Jelloul. "But I knew that a breakaway would go early and I saw Skydive Dubai going into it. Some guys weren't working [in the 12-man front group] and I was feeling very good. There were three of us left in the finale until Chtioui came across and beat us. He was so strong."
The UCI 2.2 Jelajah Malaysia will feature four more stages until December 17.