Morton and Howes storm into the lead at Old Man Winter Rally

Alex Howes and Lachlan Morton (EF Education-Nippo) dusted off their gravel bikes to tackle the 100km ride at Old Man Winter Rally in Colorado and ended up setting a time that looks almost unbeatable.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no mass start in this year’s events but riders and groups of up to 10 are allowed to take on the 100km challenge which is split into two segments. Riders have a week to complete the rides with aggregate times added together over their two segments. Morton completed the two rides in a combined time of 2:29:57, with Howes lagging behind by three seconds due to what he told Cyclingnews was a data glitch with his GPS apparently ‘recording what was happening emotionally’.

“I’m still pretty sore if I’m honest,” Howes told Cyclingnews on Monday morning, 48 hours after he and Morton had begun their ride.

“It turns out that you don’t recover that well when you have an infant in the house. The muscles you use for training aren’t quite the same as the ones you use for a 100km time trial.”

The WorldTour pair currently hold a 24-minute lead over the next competitor but Howes believes that there is a chance their time can be beaten over the remaining days if other riders organize their efforts and have better wind conditions. Some solid preparation might also be advisable after the EF pair only decided to take on the event two days prior.

The event takes in some of the most scenic off-road gravel routes in and around Boulder, Colorado but recent snow added a new dimension to the event with the EF pair riding through the conditions with their road shoes.

“We did a good time, we went hard and we went as fast as we could but we had a headwind in the second part. There’s definitely a potential for our time to be beaten over the next week if a little group can get organized. They don’t even have to be superheroes. It could be Boulder’s masters group but if they’re committed to getting one guy through pretty fast, there’s an opportunity.”

While Howes and Morton relied on their pedigree and experience in major events, the American admits that their preparation was far from optimum and a far cry from what Howes will go through next month when he takes on another gravel adventure, this time at Strade Bianche.

“I messaged Lachlan two days before and asked if he wanted to do this on the weekend. I got a thumbs-up emoji. I got another thumbs up emoji when I asked him if he wanted to meet at nine in the morning of our ride and that was it as far as planning goes. We just went for it. We were doing it for training so we wanted to get as much out of it as possible,” Howes said.

“We both screwed up our tyre pressure. Lachlan had tubes because he’s Lachlan and I had mine up at 90 because I’m a new father and I don’t remember to do simple things anymore. We were bouncing around and Lachlan was on his back at one point after a crash.”

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