More than any other rider on EF Education First, Lachlan Morton has availed himself of the team's “alternative calendar” of off-road ultra-endurance events and gravel grinders, as the American WorldTour team works to expand its portfolio.
The 27-year-old Australian is at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah this week, his first road tour and only second road race since the Amgen Tour of California in May. Morton has been focusing on the mass-start events where he competes against a handful of pros and sometimes thousands of citizen riders.
“They’re all events I’ve always wanted to do,” Morton told Cyclingnews Saturday before the start of stage 5 in Utah. “So to be able to have a team that backs you to go do it and to be able to race professionally, for me it’s kind of a dream situation. I really want to race any of them, because they’re all new experiences for me."
After competing in the Tour of California in May, Morton went off road in Kansas for the Dirty Kanza at the beginning of June. Morton was fourth in the 360km gravel race, crossing the line in more than 10 hours.
Morton raced on the road again at the inaugural Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge in France, then restarted his alternative schedule at the end of the month with the GBDURO, an endurance race that covered more than 2,000km across the whole of Great Britain. Morton won the event, riding the course in 111 hours and 44 minutes.
Most recently, Morton finished third at the Leadville Trail 100, a 160km mountain bike race that took place in Colorado at more than 3,050 metres of elevation. The EF Education First pro finished the race in 6:22:42.
"It’s great to challenge yourself that way and just sort of being involved in cycling in a different discipline or a different type," Morton said of the impetus for entering the new non-traditional events.
"It makes even coming back to a road race like this, it makes it more fun. I haven’t done a road tour since the Tour of California, so I’m definitely feeling fresh," he said. "I’ve never had as much fun racing my bike as I’ve had this year, this season, because I’ve been doing so many different things."
Morton’s reintroduction to road racing this week in Utah didn't produced the results he’s been used to until the penultimate stage on Saturday, when he took the stage 5 win.
Morton is hoping to continue his adventures next season, possibly even adding more.
"Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully this continues to grow," he said. "The idea is that hopefully, eventually, it’s not the alternative calendar, it’s just what the calendar is. Cycling is growing in so many different ways. It’s kind of narrow minded to think that road racing is always the pinnacle of the sport. I think that’s going to change."