Whenever you hear someone bemoan modern professional cycling – the power meters, the media training, the race radios, and so on – point them in the direction of Lachlan Morton. Between the Thereabouts films, his climbing prowess, and his idiosyncratic style, he’s just about the antithesis of the peloton’s more anodyne members.
After a rocky couple of seasons, Morton recently won the Tour of Utah in commanding style – a race that we celebrated with a special edition cap, the last few of which are available to buy below. Shortly after this victory, he took the time to talk to us about the virtues of being older, wiser, and into colouring books.
Any cycling fans who follow Skratch Labs founder Allen Lim on Instagram would have noticed that you spent the weeks before Utah training with Allen and BMC’s Taylor Phinney. How was that?
We’re all really good mates, and both Taylor and I had big goals coming up, so it made sense to train together – we train together a lot anyway.
Some days we’d start the training with eight guys, some days 15, but the workouts were so tough that most of the time only three or four of us would get through the whole thing. We had a follow car with Taylor’s dad, Davis, and Mike Friedman, ready with food and bottles. It was a dream scenario: we were well looked after, it was fun, and we rode hard.
You’re a different rider to Taylor, with quite different goals. Did that change the way you rode?
I think the differences were what made it perfect. On a long, flat section, he’s going to take me to my limit. And vice versa, when we’re climbing I can make him hurt a bit.
The secret is this: Allen has a thing called ‘The Hand of God’. Allen was riding with us on a scooter, and when someone was dropped they could take ‘The Hand’ – a big, Madison-style sling all the way past the group. The dropped rider would get some rest, and a head start, and then you’d have to work to catch them again.
And this is the sort of atmosphere you need. If I had just gone to practice riding up hills all day, I’d get really good at just riding up hills. But there’s a lot more to a bike race than riding up a hill.
You currently live in the US capital of bike racing – Boulder, Colorado. What’s that like?
I live here with my parents, my wife, my brother and his wife, all in the one house. It’s awesome. In Europe, I was stuck in an apartment in Girona, by myself most of the time. Purely from that perspective, it’s like moving back to the house you grew up in.
When I was in Europe, as a young guy, bike racing became all I could think about. It consumes your life. If you’re not out on a six-hour ride, you’re back in your apartment thinking about tomorrow’s training, or the race that’s coming up, or what someone else is doing that day in training.
Now, I go out training just as hard as I would have in Europe, but I come home and everyone has done something different with their day, and we leave our work at the door. And, if I go out and have a shitty training ride, it’s not the only thing I have to think about for the rest of the night. It quite quickly becomes put in context.
From that perspective, it’s just so much more… healthy? Organic? Normal? I don’t know the right word. And I should mention how good it is to go riding out here in Boulder. I head out the door and in ten minutes I can be on a 20km climb in the mountains and not see anyone. That side of it makes a difference.
It sounds like you wouldn’t want to move back to Europe.
I still have things I want to do in European racing. I watch the Tour, and I wish I was there. Like any professional rider, you know, it’s cool to win the Tour of Utah, but if you want recognition outside of your sport, the Tour de France and racing there is how you do it.
I also think I would know how to do it properly now, being older. I was 20 when I lived over there, and when I look back at it now I realise that I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted. Now I do.
I was there and achieved nothing. I mean, nothing of importance. That’s something I want to do, which means I have to go live in Europe. And, being older and wiser and more comfortable with myself, I reckon I could create an environment that I’d enjoy.
I noticed in a recent interview that you’ve been making use of a colouring book. Is this a secret part of your training, or just a new hobby?
Huh. Yeah. It’s a nice thing to do to pass the time without looking at your phone. It’s so easy to do – you sit in your hotel room and play on your phone, or sit on the bus and play on your phone, I think it’s good to have something that switches off your brain a lot – or maybe stimulates it in a way that you don’t get from the rest of your day. I don’t know, I just found it really relaxing, so I took it everywhere.
After a stage, or in the morning… especially in a situation where you’re leading a race, or you know, trying to get a result, it’s hard to switch off and stop thinking about it all the time. So I think it’s important to be able to switch off for a while. The book is the best thing I’ve found for this, so I take it everywhere.