Lachlan Morton on his fundraising ride to Ukraine.

Lachlan Morton has set his sights on Mark Beaumont’s 78-day around the world record

The current world record is 78 days, 14 hours and 40 minutes, set by Scottish long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont in 2017.

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It appears that Lachlan Morton has found his next massive-distance challenge, this time flying closer than ever to impossible. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s probably the wily Australian.

Morton’s team boss Jonathan Vaughters has revealed that the founding member of EF Education-EasyPost’s alternative program has got his eye on Mark Beaumont’s world circumnavigation record which the Scotsman set in 2017: 78 days, 14 hours and 40 minutes, breaking the previous record set by New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson by no less than 44 days.

It was Beaumont’s second record-breaking lap of the globe after the much-longer ride he completed about a decade earlier, but in 2017 he undertook the challenge with a support team to maximise the miles ridable in one day. By the time he arrived in Paris, Beaumont had cycled an average of 240 miles in 16 hours a day, by so doing scooping a second world record for the most miles cycled in a month that he set between Paris and Perth, Australia, covering 7,031 miles (11,315 km).

The nutritional, mechanical and logistical support available to Morton will be something of a diversion from what he’s become familiar with over his more independent endeavours, but it’s a challenge that he has expressed interest in, though he concedes that it’s still in the early stages of discussion. And it won’t be any time soon.

“What we wanted to do was to try the around the world record [in the second half of 2023],” Vaughters said, speaking to Cycling Weekly, “but the sticking point on that right now is Russia.”

To officially complete the record, Morton will need to start and finish in the same location, then ride in a constant direction over a minimum distance of 29,000 km (18,000 miles), with the total distance meant to exceed the length of the equator. Beaumont’s own record-smashing attempt left from Paris and headed east across Russia and Mongolia to Beijing, then through Australia and New Zealand, over to North America on a long northerly route, then hopping across the Atlantic and through Portugal on the way back to Paris. 

The conflict in Russia presents a significant additional challenge, because though there are alternatives, the pace and daily distance at which Morton would have to travel means that more frequent changes in direction, local logistics and border controls of multiple countries could be a major hurdle.

“We don’t think that’s going to be possible next year,” Vaughters said, “so we’re trying to come up with a plan B right now. What that is, we’re not sure yet.”

Morton’s ‘race program’ has consisted of less and less road racing since 2019; this season he appeared on just five start lines, including the four-day Gran Camiño where he found the inspiration to undertake his ride to Ukraine through teammate Mark Padun. Next year he’s unlikely to rejoin the peloton at all – indeed, he’s not expected to be included in EF Education-EasyPost’s UCI-official roster for 2023 – and is planning to divert his focus towards trying to win gravel races, taking a break from the sleep-depriving ultra events which have become his bread and butter.

At this point, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine ongoing and no end in sight, at least as far as ensuring a cyclist’s safety is concerned, it could be a while before Morton’s circumnavigation goes ahead – 2024 at the earliest. But when it does, and assuming he still has the support of a world-class professional outfit at the time, there’s every reason to believe that he can break Beaumont’s record.

Watch this space. We certainly will be.

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