Lachlan Morton (EF Education-EasyPost) has been looking for another major test of endurance after last year's 'Alt Tour de France' but Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent humanitarian disaster has inspired him to use his efforts to raise money for the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.
Last year, Morton raised over £500,000 for World Bicycle Relief with his Alt Tour and is expected to complete another epic ride this season. He was preparing to race the Gran Camiño with Ukrainian teammate Mark Padun in Spain when the news of the invasion came, and an entire population suddenly plunged into war now had a personal connection.
"That made it hit closer to home, having a teammate who is directly impacted by it," Morton said. "I found it hard to focus on trying to get ready for a race when something so significant was happening in the world.
"I'm a pretty optimistic person generally, but in the past couple of weeks, I've just felt that there has been very little to be excited about. It's hard to get your head around. It's surreal in a way. You watch the news, and the news is so heavy that you almost just disengage from it because it is too much."
Russian bombs have been falling on a sovereign nation so close to Europe that Morton, after consulting the maps, decided he could ride to the border in one go.
He will set out from Munich, Germany on Saturday to ride 1,063 kilometres to the Ukraine border. He expects the ride to take around 40 hours to complete and he hopes to raise $50,000 for Ukrainian refugees.
"I kept thinking, wow, I could actually do that in one ride," he says. "So that was my idea. I'm not an overly political person. I'm not an expert in any of this. I'm just trying to do the one thing I know how to do and engage the bike-riding community to help."
The United Nations estimates that three million Ukrainians have left the country because of the invasion, with 1.9 million fleeing to Poland alone. Another 1.85 million have been displaced within Ukraine.
"My idea is to highlight the fact that war is not a far-off problem. Conflicts are a bike ride away, all over the world. That's the intention behind it, and to try and raise as much money as we can to help out people who have been displaced."
Morton's ride will take him from Germany into the Czech Republic, then through Poland to the border crossing between Korczowa, Poland and Krakovets, Ukraine. You can follow his progress here.
"It feels like it is some far-off, distant terrible thing that is going on, that is almost a world away. But the reality is that it is not. So, I hope that covering that distance on a bike, and interacting with people on the way, will help to cement the reality of it a bit more."
Padun said he still has family and friends in Ukraine and is feeling helpless.
"Honestly, I don't know what people should do. I don't know what I personally can do. It is difficult to fully concentrate because you are aware that a war is still happening in your country," he said.
"What the people of Ukraine need is for the war to be stopped. But what Lachlan is doing is good. The more people who are speaking about this, the better. It is great that he is raising money for Ukrainian refugees, too."
The Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund is managed by GlobalGiving and will directly benefit refugees with shelter, food, water, healthcare and psychological support.
EF Education First, Cannondale, and Rapha have combined to donate $100,000 to the relief fund. You can learn more about GlobalGiving's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund and donate here.
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