The EF Pro Cycling team announced today the signing of Australian Lachlan Morton. The 26-year-old returns after four years away - two with Jelly Belly then the past two seasons with Dimension Data - to the organisation where he began his career in 2011 on the Chipotle-Solar development 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."
Morton, the winner of the 2016 Tour of Utah and the 2017 best young rider's classification in the Tour of California, will be a part of the team's "unconventional" season, where, as part of a partnership with Rapha, riders will be taking part in some non-traditional endurance events in an attempt to garner interest in the team from the larger cycling community.
"I hope that we can successfully create that connection that makes WorldTour cycling more relevant," Morton said in a team press release. "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."
The project is a natural fit for Morton, who, after leaving Garmin-Sharp in 2014 and questioning his cycling career altogether, embarked on a bikepacking adventure with his brother Angus. The pair documented the travels in a film series dubbed 'Thereabouts' and Morton rekindled his love for the sport.
"A lot of people have connected with me through the Thereabouts stuff because it's relevant to them," Morton explained. "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.
"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. They're really committed to growing it and in turn, they'll grow the sport as a whole."
Morton is already planning an adventure for the end of this year, when he will ride from Albania to Istanbul via Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria.
"Just things like looking at Google Maps and digging into new roads, even that process I find really exciting," Morton 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."