2021 Tour de France

Lachlan Morton Completes 'Alt Tour de France' Six Days Before Peloton

Lachlan Morton Completes 'Alt Tour de France' Six Days Before Peloton

Lachlan Morton from EF Education-Nippo put his endurance bike skills to the test.

Jul 13, 2021 by Jessica Alexander
Lachlan Morton's Insane Ride Up K2

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The Tour de France is currently racing its 108th edition. The epic, man-powered journey across France looks quite different from the scenes of the inaugural race in 1903.

In 2021, the opening stages were marked by unforgettable crashes and emotional victories as the modern peloton, surrounded by thousands of fans and robust team support, charged across Brittany at speeds that would have been unimaginable a century ago. 

While Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu Van Der Poel jostled for the yellow jersey, a lone Australian professional cyclist set off on his own Tour de France with little fanfare. 

Lachlan Morton of Team EF Education-Nippo decided to put his ultra-endurance bike racing skills to the ultimate test and ride the entire Tour de France route from the Grand Depart in Brest on June 26th to the Finale in Paris on July 18th, unsupported. 

Bikepacking The Biggest Race In The World

For Lachlan, taking on the 5510km challenge was more than just completing each stage of the Tour as the racers would; it also meant carrying all of his own gear on his team issue Cannondale SuperSix EVO race bike on the official race course, as well as riding the transfers from one stage's finish to the next stage's start.

While Lachlan’s teammates would relax in a plush, clean motorcoach taking them from stage finishes to their evening hotel rooms and chef-prepared meals, Lachlan would continue to ride, finding campsites or public land along the way where he could set up his tiny and oftentimes damp bivy tent, make a hot meal and try to sleep. 

The Original Spirit Of The Tour Lives On

When asked why he would add an additional 2096 km of riding onto an already-impressive feat of completing the Tour on a weighed-down bike, Lachlan referenced that he was trying to capture the original essence of what the Tour de France began as -- riding a bicycle from town-to-town carrying all the supplies one needs to survive while on the road for hundreds of kilometers at a time. 

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that riders were even allowed outside assistance in the form of a mechanic or team director in the Tour. The Tour has always been about athletic ability but in those days it was also about a show of character, resilience and self-reliance. 

“Being largely self-sufficient is just a really nice, pure way to experience a place. You are doing it with everything that you need on your bike.” said Morton before he left Brest in June. “In my opinion, it’s one of the most pure forms of riding that you can do.”

A rider climbs the Col de Vars during the 275-kilomter long 16th stage of the 1927 Tour de France.

Riding The Tour In Sandals

The 18-day adventure wasn’t without mishaps and challenges though; Lachlan was rained on constantly. Without much sunshine, Lachlan’s feet were never able to fully dry out and he experienced knee pain as well, thus he donned a pair of cheap rubber sandals and flat pedals he found along the way. However, due to the quality of his footwear, he began to grow massive blisters on his feet so he had to find ways to modify his sandals so he could continue his voyage. By adding a pair of carbon insoles a supporter gave him along the way and cutting a strap on his sandals, he was able to continue riding and still average over 17 mph.

The Power Of The Bicycle

Originally when Lachlan started his "Alt Tour", his goal was simply to stay in front of the peloton and beat them to Paris. In order to do this, it meant he would have to average 239km a day for 23 days (and no opportunity for a rest day). In fact, on day three, Lachlan was far enough in front of the peloton and was able to enjoy lunch at a cafe while watching the stage finish. 

In the early, flatter stages of the tour, he was often able to complete two stages in one day. Despite restless nights due to relentless, cold rain, riding stuck in one gear on a dead Di2 battery, flat tires repaired with an air mattress patch and bleeding, blistered feet, Lachlan pulled off the ride of a lifetime, beating the peloton to Paris by six days.  

Lachlan began his alt tour with the goal of raising funds for the World Bicycle Relief, a charity that provides bikes to people in need of transport in developing countries. His ride has raised over $579,000 for World Bicycle Relief, along with a 500 bike donation from both Rapha and EF Education First. At the time this was written, Lachlan is at 99% of his $587,403 goal. You can help him reach that remaining 1% by donating here: https://give.worldbicyclerelief.org/campaign/ef-rapha-for-wbr/c329966.