Lachlan Morton: Gravel Worlds isn’t a threat

The Australian heaped praised on the opening sections of the inaugural worlds course.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

The day before the UCI gravel worlds, Lachlan Morton was amongst a number of well-known professional riders hanging around by the side of the start line an hour before the women’s race, about to head off on a recon of the course ahead of the men’s race in 24 hours in the future.

Holding a package, he walked over to his compatriot Nathan Haas to show him what was inside: Australian national jerseys.

It’s not every day, at least these days, that Morton pulls on the green and gold bands of his nation. He’s usually off the beaten track riding his bike in the middle of nowhere, or refuelling with beer and chocolate milk at a gas station. But here he was, in Veneto, for a UCI race.

On the start line the next day, he could be spotted bobbing his head along to the pounding music blasting out on what would have otherwise been a quiet Sunday morning in Vicenza. Before long he was on his way, setting off to discover the first-ever UCI world gravel championships alongside other big names in cycling such as Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan.

He eventually finished a respectable 18th, present in some of the front selections early on before Gianni Vermeersch and Daniel Oss stole a march on the rest of the field and fought it out for the rainbow jersey between them, the Belgian emerging victorious.

Discussion of the event bloomed over the weekend. Questions were posed as to whether this world championships actually counted as gravel racing, and how, exactly, it fits into the already-existing scene. Morton is somewhat of a poster boy, if not an unofficial spokesperson, for the off-road scene, at least from the viewpoint of road racing fans. So what did he make of his day on the dirt roads of northeast Italy?

“It was very different for sure,” Morton told CyclingTips after the finish. “Just different, I thought the first 50 km was put together really well and then after that, I think the course could have been better. But on the whole, I thought it was a good event. The level was really high, a very different style of racing. I think this kind of terrain lends itself to really nice…you can put together really good mixed terrain racing whereas the US races are just big gravel roads. So just different but it was really good.”

A tick of approval from Morton, then, who also believes that it doesn’t have to be US gravel or UCI gravel, but that both can co-exist peacefully.

“Totally,” he said of whether the race measured up to the expectation of the name. “I think the beginning of the race was more interesting than any of the races I’ve done in the States terrain-wise because you’re jumping in and out of paths and farms, all kinds of stuff. I don’t think it’s a threat on the US gravel scene it’s just something different.

“There’s no harm in coming and trying something new and giving it a chance,” Morton continued. “There are obviously things they can do better but it’s the first time, you know? I think the big plusses are you get closed roads and you get amazing crowds and really cool, varied terrain. I think on the whole it was a success.”

Nowadays, his start lines rarely consist of WorldTour pros at the height of their powers, so what was it like racing against the likes of Mathieu van der Poel?

“Two weeks ago I was doing a five-day ultra event so to jump into this is so different,” Morton laughed. “But it’s fun, that’s what I like because the level is so high, it’s cool to see that with your own eyes. As expected, high-level WorldTour riders make good gravel riders.”

Editors' Picks