Interview: Lachlan Morton on the gear and motivation behind his Alt Tour
It’s audacious, but not impossible. Lachlan Morton wants to ride the entire 2021 Tour de France route and beat the peloton — with its automobile- and airplane-facilitated transfers, comfy beds, chefs, mechanics, soigneurs — to Paris.
By the finish he’ll have ridden 5,500 kilometers and climbed 65,500 meters, 2,400 km farther and 15,000 m higher than the actual Tour de France. He’s done the math, and if all goes to plan he’ll arrive on the Champs Élysées six hours ahead of his EF teammates.
We caught up with Morton on the eve of his personal Grand Depart to talk about his motivation for the ride and the gear he’ll use to accomplish it.
You can follow Morton’s progress via his dot watching page here.
If you’d like to listen instead, the interview is in our Tour Daily stage 1 podcast, beginning at 37:15.
CyclingTips: All right. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did this crazy idea come from?
Lachlan Morton: JV (Jonathan Vaughters) asked if I thought it could be done and I said, yeah, it needs to be done. And that was without really looking at it really in-depth, so just kind of had a gut feeling it could be done. And then looking at it, it was, you know, a pretty huge undertaking. And so I’m actually not really sure it can be done, but I’m going to give it a go.
CT: I mean, you must have done the math since then?
LM: Yeah, we’ve crunched a lot of numbers and everything going well I would get there six hours before the race. But obviously, this, as you know, so many things go wrong in three weeks of aggressive bikepacking. Yeah, we’re going to see.
CT: Is this going to be kind of like your your Land’s End to John O’Groats adventure, where you’re sleeping for a couple of hours every night, sometimes not sleeping at all?
LM: I mean, it’s self-supported in the same vein. So, I’ll be carrying everything I need. Clothing, a tent, the sleeping bag, all that stuff.
Ideally I’ll be getting regular sleep. Somewhere between six to eight hours, with the exception of probably the first night, because I have to start after the race, but yeah, my idea is to sort of shoot for somewhere around 12 hours of ride time each day, which, you know, if I do it without too much stopping and relatively efficiently, I should be able to sleep, not have to deprive myself of sleep too much.
When it’s three weeks long, you just can’t really get away with that. So my setup is a bit more luxurious, like sleep-wise. Plus I’ve got a cooker and a few things in to make it more comfortable with the idea of like it’s going to be quite a bit more sustainable than the other events I’ve done.
CT: How are you carrying it all?
LM: I’ve got a full frame bag and handlebar roll and then the full massive saddlebags. So it’s quite a lot of stuff. But yeah, it’s as minimal as I could go. And it’s still quite a lot like the bike ride at times.
CT: Do you have a weight on it?
LM: I don’t. I’ve only just finished packing it. But from the feel of it, like before I put the water and food, it feels like it’s already well over 15 kilos. So I think by the time it’s fully loaded, then I’ll be pushing 20.
CT: So you need to get ahead of the race at certain points, right? Because, for example, at the end, they’re going to fly from Bordeaux to Paris. They’re going to do it in 90 minutes or an hour. And that’s most of France that you have to get across. How far ahead do you feel like you need to be at that point to “win” this thing, if we’re going to call it that?
LM: I think I’m going to need to have a couple of days to do that stretch because it’s 700 km and yeah, it’s going to take me at least two days to do that. The idea is to use the rest days to push ahead a bit more and get some sort of buffer. And then, yeah, obviously they’re going to close in pretty quickly on the old plane. Ideally, I’ll be in Paris or very close to Paris by the time they get on the plane.
CT: So you’re going to be riding the exact race route, but how are you connecting the bits that aren’t going to be ridden by the rest of the tour? Did you just map this out yourself?
LM: We had some help from VeloViewer for that. Because that’s a huge job. That was one thing I didn’t want to do, build all those GPX files. So I’ve actually had very little to do with that. Nothing. But they’ve gone through to make sure it’s all rideable, as far as like not motorways or highways. They tried to keep the distance to a minimum without putting me on highways.
CT: What was the inspiration for this? You said JV pitched this one to you. But you have to want to do this. I mean, you’re not going to do this just because JV told you to. I guess he is technically your boss, but you have to want to do it.
LM: It’s right up my alley. To me it’s kind of like the perfect marriage of my skill sets, you know, and a lot of my riding in the last few years has kind of led to this being like the perfect sort of challenge.
You go back to the original Tour and the way the riders and the event looked, then it’s going to be a lot closer to what I’m doing than what the race is. I’m like a big fan of the sport, the history of the sport, and I’m really excited to experience that style of riding and also having to do it, you know, quite quickly. So, yeah, that’s my personal inspiration, you know.
CT: I want to talk a little bit more about the gear. So what exactly is the setup like? What bike are you riding? You mentioned you’ve got big frame bag, big saddlebags. But what tires? You running aero bars?
LM: So I’m just on my EVO [Cannondale SuperSix EVO] race bike that we regularly use with 28 mm tires, Vittoria Corsas. But I’m just running tubes just because it’s the most simple in the case of a flat. I’ll run 55 mm wheels, still a pretty fast setup.
CT: Not that far off of a regular Tour de France race bike as a base.
LM: If you took the tubes out and the bags, that’s for sure. It is the bike I’ve been racing on the road for the last month. And then I’ve got a full frame bag, which was custom built for the bike, and that arrived today, I was very glad to fit it in there. So that means I’m running a bladder, so I can carry a bit more water and also just utilize the space a bit better.
And then my sleep set up is I’m using an air mat and then I’ve got a bivvy that has poles and you can stake it out to actually be kind of more like a one-man tent. Then just a really light sleeping bag, a liner, and an inflatable pillow. So that’s my sleep set up, and it’s a full-sized mat and it’s quite comfortable, I’ve been sleeping on the floor in the AirBnB just to get used to it, it is pretty good.
And then I’ve got this like a regular small gas burner with a pot. I’ve got like a down jacket and a big rain jacket that goes over everything. I’ll take some legwarmers and then I basically just have, like a pair of shorts and a shirt for off the bike. I’ve just got a power bank, headlamp, and those little bits and pieces.
I’m running aero bars mainly just because to keep the weight off the hands a bit. It’s nice to just have a different position to get into because, I mean, once you throw all the bags and stuff on the bike, it’s not really cutting through the air.
CT: Less aerobars and more just resting bars.
LM: Yeah, exactly. Resting bars is a good way to put it. Then I’m just using the Garmin 1030 S, I think it is, I can’t remember the last letter. It’s the new one with the battery that lasts forever so that helps. [It’s the Garmin 1030 Plus – ed.]
CT: I think you pretty much covered it there. I’m curious on the Garmin, is it just one massive route or is it broken into like bits? Like how do you sort of have places where you want to stop, for example.
LM: Yeah, yeah. We have stops in there, like the basic idea of maybe and somewhere around here.
CT: It sounds less intimidating than just turning that thing on and seeing 5,500 km to go.
LM: Yeah. I also think would just crash probably. We’ve broken into more or less like this stage plus the transfer. So for the first week, more or less 300 kilometers each day. And then once we hit the mountains the distance comes down. But I think the duration is going to be just as much, if not more, just because of all the climbing. With all that weight that’s what really slows you down.