Thomas Woodson/EF Pro Cycling

Lachlan Morton is taking on the Colorado Trail again

Morton will ride in honor of his friend Sule Kangangi, who died in late August.

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With unfinished business and the pain of loss, Lachlan Morton is tackling the Colorado Trail once again.

This ride undid him in 2019, near the start of his now well-formed journey from WorldTour road racer to professional two-wheeled adventurer. He will start from Denver and ride to Durango across the Rocky Mountains, on a 539 mile (867 km) trail that sits mostly around 10,000 feet (3,050 m) with a high point over 13,000 feet (3,950 m).

His mind will drop into all manner of deep and dark places, but, this year, the memory of a friend will provide motivation. Just weeks ago, Sule Kangangi died while racing a gravel event in Vermont, where he had traveled to from Kenya with Team Amani. Kangangi was a racing and trainer partner of Morton’s. The duo competed in events on three continents together and a close friendship formed.

Lachlan Morton and Sule Kangangi. Photo: EF Pro Cycling

Morton is riding in support of Kangangi’s family, and his team and sponsors have combined to help raise additional funds. Donors to the Kangangi family’s GoFundMe will be entered to win prizes that include a complete Cannondale bike and other team-issue gear.

Morton will set off at midday local time on Tuesday, September 6. You can track Morton’s progress via his GPS dot.

Morton previously made a run at the fastest known time (FKT) on the Colorado Trail in 2019, but failed in his attempt. “It kicked my butt,” he said. The record stands at three days, 19 hours, and 50 minutes, and is held by Neil Beltchenko. That’s 539 miles (867 km) almost entirely off-road, at altitude, unsupported, in less than four days.

Morton says the FKT isn’t the goal this time, but the way he plans to ride should put him close to the fastest mark anyway.

“I’m very hesitant to put too many concrete plans on it,” Morton said. “I’ll definitely sleep, it’s so long. Mentally, I’m not going to break it up into different days, more like experiencing it as one ride. As a result of that, I’ll probably be going fast on the route.

“The outcome I’m looking for is not whether I break the record or not. It’s more whether I’m happy with the ride I’ve put together and whether or not I have to come back again and do it.”

Photo: Thomas Woodson/EF Pro Cycling

After starting south of Denver, the route makes its way around the Kenosha mountains and toward Breckenridge, then turns southwest toward Leadville, Buena Vista, and the Collegiate Peaks. The 50 miles before reaching Silverton are among the most rugged and highest, and Morton will spend nearly an entire day above 12,000 feet (3,660 m). Nearing the finish, the Australian will take in the steep faces of the San Juans before dropping down into lush forest and the trail’s finish just outside Durango.

“The most satisfying thing for me is to put myself in seemingly extreme conditions like being over 12,000 feet on a very technical single track at 2 am when it’s 0 ºC (32 ºC) and windy,” Morton said. “To be comfortable in that situation, that’s what I find rewarding. The last time I was in that situation, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in way over my head, I’m scared.’ To be able to come back knowing I’ve accumulated the experiences and skills necessary and to come back and be in the same situation but this time it’s, ‘Wow, I’m enjoying this. This is a cool challenge.’ That’s the thing I’m looking for.

“A few years ago, I was very intrigued by FKTs because I think it’s cool that you can take a route that anyone can do and test yourself on it. For example, on this route, the people who’ve been really fast on it have spent years perfecting the way they go about riding it. That’s interesting to see what the possibilities are.

“I think now I’m a little less interested in that. I’m just trying to see how fast I can move through it in a way that I’m happy with. If that means that’s faster than what anyone else has done, I don’t mind. If you miss the point of the route in your attempt to go fast, you’ve just missed the point altogether.”

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