The Amgen Tour of California played out like a race with a saw-tooth profile for Dimension Data's Lachlan Morton, as the 25-year-old Australian suffered a series of peaks and valleys only to emerge on top after the final stage in Pasadena.
Morton hit his first high point during stage 2 on Monday, making it into the group of four general classification contenders who escaped the field on Mt. Hamilton and then stuck their advantage to the line.
Morton moved into fourth overall during the stage and held the lead in the Best Young Rider classification, a jersey he'd wear until disaster stuck during the stage 6 time trial at Big Bear Lake.
A mechanical straight out of he start house sunk his result and dropped him to ninth overall, moving him down to third among the young riders behind Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) and Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb).
But Morton was having none of it on Saturday, making the eventually successful move and then helping power it to the line.
"Obviously it was disappointing yesterday having the mechanical," Morton said. "And so I felt I had to pay back the team for all the work they did for me this week. So I just let it hang out and it went to the finish, so that was pretty sweet."
Morton finished fourth on the stage, but the group's advantage over the much-reduced field pushed him back to the top of the Best Young Rider leader board and into the custom, graffiti artist-designed jersey.
It was a nice reward after a week of hard work for the rider who is beginning to blossom again during his second chance at cycling's top tier.
"It feels good," Morton said when asked about being back at the front of WorldTour races.
"It's been a little while coming, I guess, but Team Dimension Data is the perfect fit for me. It's an amazing cause and amazing group of people, so it's like family for me, which is important."
Morton will ride his Tour of California success back to Europe, where he'll compete next at the Tour de Suisse. After that he'll begin building up to his first-ever Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana in September, putting a nice cap on his first year back in the WorldTour.
"They've put a lot of faith in me," Morton said of Dimension Data. "They let me live at my home in Boulder [Colorado], and I try to repay that faith with some results. All is good."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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