Australian climber Lachlan Morton has been the surprise packet of the 2011 Tour de Langkawi. The 19-year-old, riding for the Chipotle Development Team, is the youngest rider in the race and is currently sitting sixth overall, just 27 seconds behind race leader Libardo Corredor.
The trek to the Genting Highlands on stage six was where Morton made his mark. He attacked in the final five kilometres and joined Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) at the head of the race. Unfortunately for him, they were caught in the closing kilometres, but Morton still managed seventh on the stage, eight seconds behind winner Jonnathan Monsalve (Androni Giocattoli).
“The race isn’t over yet but I’m pleased with my performance,” said Morton. “As far as the Genting stage, I was a bit disappointed on the day because when I got away there was a head wind and a few different things. In the end you have to look back at it and be happy, and I was happy to finish that high up.”
Morton is thrilled that he has performed well against riders such as Emanuele Sella, a three-time Giro d’Italia stage winner, and Pierre Rolland who finished 22nd in the 2009 Tour de France.
“It’s a confidence booster to be able to compete at the same level as some of these guys, but it’s easy to look at names and be intimidated,” described Morton.
“I think my strength is in the mountains and when the team has confidence in you to perform and make it easy for you up to the bottom of the hill, you always have to ride to your maximum ability.”
“It’s certainly kind of daunting to look around you and see that you’re in that company. I look at it as an opportunity because it’s nice to have your name alongside those guys. You could do your best performance in training but when you get to do it against those guys, it’s cool,” added Morton.
Morton hails from Port Macquarie and is the latest rider to make the leap from the Real Aussie Kids (RAK) program to senior level. Real Aussie Kids was founded by his father David Morton and Graham Seers in 2003.
RAK is a highly successful Junior Development Road Cycling Program for athletes aged 15-19 years. It is a feeder system to the world of professional cycling and acted as a feeder team to the Drapac Professional Cycling Team. The program identifies young cyclists and equips them with the life skills required to pursue a career at an elite level whilst providing for life after the sport through academic and personal development.
“It’s a program where young guys can experience racing overseas without pressure. Riders go over to Colorado for six-week periods. You not only race, but you’re cooking, cleaning and getting prepared for what it’s like to be a full-time bike rider when you’re ready to take that leap. It was definitely a really big part of making the jump easier for me,” explained Morton.
At the Tour of Utah last year, Morton finished seventh overall, which according to him was his break-out race, being able to keep up with great climbers such as Levi Leipheimer and Francesco Mancebo.
Morton is relaxed for the 2011 season and has highlighted his schedule.
“I will head back to the United States after this race and get into their race calendar with races such as Gila and Redlands.”
“My biggest race is in Spain in June, which I’m looking to do well in - the Circuito Montanes. It’s a goal of mine and it’s always nice to get experience overseas.”
“I will then finish the season off in Utah and those types of races.”
Asked if he has any other goals, Morton said: “I will take each race as it comes. I didn’t have the Tour of Langkawi as a goal but all of a sudden it could be a highlight.”