- Tadej Pogacar’s second Tour de France win, in less than a year, could herald a new era in cycling
- Beyond the Slovenian’s youthful dominance of professional cycling’s most esteemed event, there was another ‘Tour happening parallel
- This was Lachlan Morton’s Alt Tour. One of the most impressive solo bicycle rides, in many a year
The greatest rider at this year’s Tour de France does not feature in the general classification.
Although he had no race number, or position in the peloton, an Australian did what many imagined would be impossible.
Lachlan Morton’s idea was part romanticism, part madness. He would trace the spirit of those original Tour de France riders, who we extreme solo athletes, instead of team riders.
How? By riding the entire Tour de France route, plus an additional 60% of distance, in a few days less, than the official event.
Making the Tour de France, even tougher
Morton would carry all his food and overnight gear. There would be no team support. No mechanics. No chefs. No soigneur. No physiotherapist.
His Alt Tour Cannondale road bike would be heavily laden with camping gear, food and additional cycling garments.
Beyond the weight, the frame bags would also mess with the inherent aerodynamics, increasing drag.
Starting with the Tour - and beating them
Morton was attempting a ride of extraordinary distance and elevation. And making it that much harder, by robbing his bike of lightness and aerodynamics.
On Tuesday morning, the enigmatic Australian pro rolled onto the Avenue des Champs-Élysées’s cobbles, in Paris. It was 05:30am.
There were a few supporters to greet him, but this moment of greatness was modestly fitting in the context of Morton’s achievement.
Morton was as good as his word. He had beaten the Tour de France pro peloton to Paris. By nearly six days. The riding stats he logged, are incredible.
In 18 days, Morton covered 5510km, riding for 220 hours. He climbed the equivalent of 60 Table Mountains, along the route.
Doing it, the hard way
Far away from the pampered peleton, Morton was camping when he wasn’t riding. Living the leanest bike packaging and touring lifestyle imaginable.
He ate at cafes. And rode constantly, at an average of just over 300km per day.
Riding 5510km, with a fair portion of that distance crossing the Alps, is physically and mentally exhausting. Especially when doing it alone, on a bike loaded with supplies and camping gear.
The Australian grit is real with Morton, who hails from Port Macquarie. Seeking greater comfort, he started riding in sandals a few days into his Alt Tour. On occasion, locals joined him, for a portion of the ride, providing company.
A ride for charity - but also, himself
But mostly, Morton was on a journey of discovery. Tracing the legacy of those original Tour de France riders. And proving that you can cover a lot of distance, unsupported, on a bicycle.
Aside from his personal development as a rider and endurance bike adventurer, Morton’s Alt Tour has a worthy charity element.
By remaining true to his promise, of riding this huge Alt Tour route unsupported, and getting to Paris many days ahead of the actual Tour, Morton raised an amazing R10m for the World Bicycle Relief charity.