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Speaking after one of the top young riders in the Garmin-Sharp team, Lachlan Morton, said that he wanted to step back from the WorldTour, the American squad’s CEO Jonathan Vaughters has said that he understands the Australian’s situation but that he hopes time will prompt a rethink.
Speaking to CyclingTips, Morton said that he had troubles with motivation this season and felt that he had lost passion for the sport. As a result he said that he wanted to step back from the current level. “I want to have some fun racing next year,” he explained. “I’m looking for a team that will have my brother and I. It’s my dream to race with him next year. I’d love to make that happen.
“I’m not really interested in the WorldTour for next season. I told my agent I wasn’t really interested in doing the same thing next year. I want to have some fun, maybe try some mountain biking, cross, fixed racing, anything to liven it up a bit. I’d like to be with a small team where everyone is important and valued.”
Morton has been part of Vaughters’ setup for many years, initially as part of the Chipotle Development Team. He highlighted his talent in 2010 when he finished a stunning seventh overall in the Tour of Utah at a mere 18 years of age, despite gearing limitations. He was given a stagiaire trial in 2012 and a full contract for 2013.
The latter season was a very impressive one. Despite being just 21 years of age, he won a stage in the Tour of Utah, led the race and finished 14th overall. He then took second on day two of the USA Pro Challenge, wearing yellow for two days en route to fifth in GC. He also won the best young rider classification in both events.
This year, though, has been marked by a lack of results and has culminated with his decision to step away from the top level of the sport. Speaking to CyclingTips on Friday, Vaughters said that he understood what the rider was going through.
“Lachlan in one form or other has raced with me since he was 16 years old. I am friends with Lachlan’s family. I think he is a great kid. I want to support his career and so on, but with the mentality that he has – and I say that not in a negative sense…it is just Lachlan is a smart guy, he is creative, he is a little bit of a free spirit.”
Vaughters knows that things could go either way. There is a chance that Morton will step back from the intensity of WorldTour and decide that he prefers a more ‘normal’ life. But, alternatively, it could be precisely the thing he needs.
“He needs to rediscover why he wants to be a professional bike rider. I think if you ask him today, the constraints of the WorldTour, the rigidity of it, the scheduling, the organisation – all of that is really hard for him,” he said.
“I think he is just the guy who likes to go out, ride his bike fast, and just love it because he loves it. But I think he sort of lost that love a little bit in the extreme professionalism of WorldTour.”
Vaughters states that he believes Morton needs to take some time and decide what he wants to do. He believes he has got one thing going for him, though, namely his talent. “He is a one in a million…I told him, ‘you are so lucky. This is actually a decision for you. For a lot of guys, it is not a decision. They put their full heart into it and they just don’t have the talent to get it done. For you, you get to decide – do you want to do this, or do you want to do something else in life?’”
Asked how talented he considers Morton to be and if he believes he could be a Grand Tour contender if he were to get his full focus back, Vaughters said that the latter consideration was difficult to gauge at this point in time. His ability, though, is not in question.
“He has got an enormous engine,” he said. “Could he be a Grand Tour contender? That is always hard to say at a young age, but we have already seen what Lachlan can do in week-long stage races last year.”
Because of that, and because Vaughters believes in the rider’s potential should he rediscover his commitment, he said that he would consider taking him on again.
“I always believed in his talent” he said. “So if he takes a year away, races for a smaller team and gets the fun and the love back and wants to come back into the WorldTour, I am totally open to that. Without question.”