Today, as eight of Lachlan Morton’s EF Education-Nippo team-mates start the Tour de France, the Australian will also set out to tackle the same 21 stages over the next three weeks – but will do so solo and unsupported, with the aim of reaching Paris before them, and raising money for charity in the process.
And unlike team leader Rigoberto Uran and the others, the 29 year old won’t have a well-appointed team bus for the transfers – he’ll be riding them himself, with the longest being over 700km ahead of the final day, meaning he will ride more than 5,500km compared to the 3,417.5km of the race itself.
He’ll also be lacking all the other support that comes with riding for a team on the world’s biggest bike race – no mechanics, no soigneurs for a post-ride massage, no team mates to protect him from the wind, and he’ll also be riding on the rest days. There will be a film crew following him, however, to capture the highs and lows of his effort.
Morton said: “I’m excited to explore the origins of cycling and see for myself just how different the experience is.
“It’s a challenge that in many ways combines the two elements of cycling I have pursued the most, exploration and competition.
“Without intention I have essentially spent my whole life preparing for it,” he continued. “I know it’s going to be the most physically demanding ride I’ve undertaken but I anticipate the challenges of completing the route self-supported to be equally difficult.
“In doing the ride I hope to celebrate the history of the Tour de France while broadening the ideas of what a bike tour of France can be.
“And in the process, we’re going to be able to help get more people on bikes and make their day-to-day travels better,” he added. “That’s the best part about the whole thing.”
Named The Alt Tour, the challenge is in aid of World Bicycle Relief, with EF Education-Nippo and kit sponsor Rapha pledging 1,000 bikes for the charity as they launched the fundraiser, and ties in with their Alternative Calendar initiative, under which Morton won the 1,960km GBDuro bike-packing race from Land’s End to John O’Groats two years ago.
Simon Mottram, founder and CEO of Rapha, said: “Rapha and EF Education-Nippo established the Alternative Calendar in 2019 to showcase the best of global bike racing to a wider audience.
“At the sport’s best known events and its hidden gems, Rapha Gone Racing celebrates cycling’s characters and finds stories in the places others don’t look.
“Over the last two years, we’ve covered everything from solo endurance races to mass participation gravel grinders, cyclocross in Yorkshire to mountain biking in South Africa.
“In that time, Lachlan Morton has ridden the length of entire countries but now is the time for his greatest challenge yet. By attempting to beat the peloton to Paris, we hope that Lachlan can help raise valuable funds for World Bicycle Relief and inspire yet more people to get on their bikes.”
Philip Hult, chairman of EF Education First, said, “When I first heard about the Tour, I was 14 years old, and I remember thinking, ‘that’s not humanly possible’.
“What Lachlan is trying to do might not be possible, and I’m in awe that he’s even attempting it.
“Whether or not he beats the Tour to Paris, At EF we believe that cycling, and daring to reach for the impossible, can help solve many of the world’s problems. And whatever the outcome, working with World Bicycle Relief means we can empower more people through the Power of Bicycles. And that’s an incredible thing to be a part of.”
World Bicycle Relief provides bikes to people in developing countries, helping them access schools and healthcare as well as getting goods to market, and transforming their lives.
The charity’s, CEO Allison Dufosee said: “We are delighted by the incredibly generous donations from both Rapha and EF Education First along with all of Lachlan’s supporters who will be cheering him along on this epic ride.
“These donations will allow us to fund the delivery of thousands of Buffalo Bicycles to mobilise communities and to enable access to education across rural areas of the world. This challenge is significant for raising awareness of our mission and the Power of Bicycles and we wish Lachlan the best of luck.”
You can follow Morton’s progress via a dot-watching map on The Alt Tour page of the Rapha website, as well as through the brand’s social media channels, and fans are encouraged to leave messages of support using the hashtag #TheAltTour. Meanwhile, you can donate to the fundraising effort here.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.