Morton left Moab, Utah, early Saturday morning at 2:31 a.m. to avoid as much heat as possible, and arrived in Loma, Colorado, to set a new fastest mark on the 150-mile trail in 11 hours, 14 minutes. Ultra-endurance rider Kurt Refsnider held the previous record of 11:52.
Early troubles with a headlight meant he rode much of the first part of the mix of single- and double-track route along the Colorado River in the dark.
“It was pretty dark for the first three hours and I was taking it pretty easy on the downhills, but then going as hard as I could on the uphills,” Morton said in a team release. “And then I got a little rain actually up on top of the La Sal Mountains, which made it a little muddy. It was nice when the sun came out. It sort of felt like I was just getting started, but I was already maybe three or four hours in.”
He reloaded on water at designated water spots along the way, and filled his bottles at Dewey Bridge at the first stop a bit earlier than scheduled. After rolling out, he broke his back wheel, which required a 10-minute tire change before pressing on. He later refilled his bottles at a stream along the way, filtering the water and bringing all his own food and gear.
“For the next hour it started to get hot and I was trying to find my groove again. Then I found another little spot to fill up on water by the river and from then I knew I had enough food and enough water, so I just pushed on from there for the last four hours,” he said. “It was one of those days where everything feels like it’s going smoothly. My body was feeling good, head’s good, and you could actually just enjoy it and not battle with yourself too hard.”
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Tomorrow I’m going to get up real early and try to ride the Kokopelli trail in one go. Ever since @taylorphinney @thatisgus and I stumbled on a very small part of this trail during a thereabouts trip I’ve wanted to come back and ride it. The idea of riding this has been a light at the end of the lock down tunnel for me. It’s a real privilege to have such incredible areas be accessible to all the public and I plan on enjoying every moment. I’m nervous and excited, a 60/40 split. Haven’t had this feeling in a while. You’ll be able to follow my progress online.
Morton, 28, said he wasn’t trying to break the Kokopelli Trail record, but expressed satisfaction that he did.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Kurt for all that he’s done in ultra racing, and also for everything he’s done outside of racing with the big bikepacking routes, everything he’s done for cycling communities,” he said. “To be able to go out there and have a smooth day was huge. Getting the record is nice for sure, but I’m just happy I had a good day out on that trail.”
Like the rest of professional cycling, Morton has been in stand-by mode during the coronavirus lockdown. As conditions ease, he’s keen to get back to training and racing. And like his teammate Alex Howes, who rode from Boulder, Colorado to the Kansas border in an “ode” to Dirty Kanza, Morton likes to mix adventure riding into his program. In fact, the pair were scheduled to race the Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa before it was canceled due to the world pandemic. Last summer, Morton rode the 567-mile Colorado Trail in two hours shy of the fastest-time record.
“It’s just great having that feeling again of being out, doing things,” Morton said. “After the last few months, everyone’s sort of been questioning what they do and why they’re doing it. For me, it’s nice to be going out and doing something again.”