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He’s been one of the biggest talents in pro cycling, but also one of the most unpredictable. However, with Lachlan Morton now set for a WorldTour return, a future teammate has forecast that he is on the verge of really delivering on his potential.
“I think having a few years back in the minors over in the States getting happy, loving racing again will stand to him,” Nathan Haas told CyclingTips. “He’s been losing the ghosts that he had of 2013 and 2014 when he just got lost over here, probably resenting aspects of the sport and hating racing in Europe.
“Now he is hungry again…it is awesome. I think we are going to see something pretty freaky from him in the next few years.”
Morton showed his talent very early, taking a stunning seventh overall in the Tour of Utah in 2010 despite being just 18 years of age and despite riding on junior gearing.
Part of Garmin-Sharp’s feeder team Holowesko Partners at the time, he turned pro with the WorldTour team in 2013.
During that first season he won a stage of the Tour of Utah and led the race, as well as netting second on day two of the USA Pro Challenge and wearing yellow for two days en route to fifth in GC.
He was also the best young rider in both events.
However his progress stopped the following year as he became disillusioned with the sport. He voluntarily walked away from the WorldTour and, together with his brother Gus, began two seasons with the Continental level Jelly Belly-Maxxis squad.
That reignited his fire and he had a superb 2016 season. Morton won both the Tour of the Gila and the Tour of Utah, and took a total of three stages between those two events.
As a result of his resurgence Team Dimension Data came knocking, and the 24 year old signed up for a WorldTour return.
Haas is a fellow Australian and also competed alongside the younger rider in the past. He gives an insight into why he feels things went wrong and what Morton needs to thrive.
“I was there at Slipstream with Lachlan. I have also known him for a really long time,” Haas said. “I know his brother from Sydney, he went to the same university that I did. They are an awesome family, just amazing people. They are so unique, so different. Just classy athletes, super classy.
“I saw Lachie come into the WorldTour maybe a bit too young. And then I also saw a lot of things with Lachlan where I would say he was mistreated. Not from a lack of effort, but maybe just a lack of understanding of who he is. That’s because he is a totally different character and he is not motivated by the same idols as everyone else.
“Money is not what he cares about. So as soon as there is an ugly conversation about money, he becomes nonchalant.
“It is all about relationships with him, building good ones. As soon as that is muddied by any sort of tactical or contractual pressure, then I think he switches off to that person. Then it is hard to get out of Lachlan what they want.”
Fresh start, ideal environment?
Morton has had time to mature physically and emotionally, and also to take a break from the pressure of the WorldTour and people’s expectations.
That should stand to him, but Haas is convinced that the move to Team Dimension Data is also an important key into unlocking his potential.
Considering his knowledge of Morton’s personality and motivations, he believes the atmosphere, approach and diversity of Dimension Data should work well to avoid the same issues as cropped up before.
“I think on our team, one of the things that is absolutely amazing is that we have such a different squad,” he explained. “The number of different nationalities we have must be most in the whole WorldTour. Taking that into account, we have a lot of different personalities from culture, and also from people being people.
“Our team has had to learn how to manage different personalities and different needs and different perspectives and different ideas and different ways to plan and prepare for races. Different ways to motivate tactically. Different ways to get guys to actually buy into a plan from a communication perspective.”
Because of that flexibility and the people skills it requires, he believes it will be the right environment for Morton to thrive.
“I think for Lachie this is probably the most ideal home. It is a very hands-on team, but if you want it to be hands-off as well, as long as you are getting what you need to be getting done, the team also understands that. So I think it is a very peaceful place.
“As soon as the student is ready to learn, the teacher presents himself. So I think for Lachie, when he is going to want to be switched off, he can do that. That said, I know that in those times, Lachie trains harder than anyone, he is going to be able to do what he needs to do.
“But also when he is really super-engaged and focussed on a race, every mechanism that he is ever going to need is going to be there.
“We have great coaching staff, great medical staff and we have amazing directors. Putting all that into the mixing bowl, I think he is going to come out on top with this new team.
“I think his potential is limitless if he wants it to be.”