Q&A: Lachlan Morton takes on the Colorado Trail

After a summer of competing in alternative races and ultra-endurance events, the Australian takes on one more challenge: the Colorado Trail.

EF Education First rider Lachlan Morton has been busy this summer, logging many of his cycling miles off-road. In early June, he tackled Dirty Kanza 200, finishing a respectable fourth. Later that month, he completed GBDuro, a 2,000-kilometer self-supported bike-packing “enduro” from the southern tip of the United Kingdom to the north. Then in August, Morton scored a third place finish at the Leadville Trail 100; one week later he won the fifth stage of the Tour of Utah.

On August 25, he began an individual time trial (ITT) of the Colorado Trail, one of the premier, long distance bike-packing trails in the U.S. The trail, which spans 539 miles from Denver to Durango, rises and falls with an average elevation of 10,000 feet, gaining over 72,000 feet total.

We spoke with Morton before he left. Look for our follow-up interview upon his return.

VeloNews: When did you get the idea to ITT the Colorado Trail?
Lachlan Morton: After GBDuro, I immediately wanted to do something else that was long. I figured I’d be [in Colorado] most of the summer so the Colorado Trail made sense. To be honest, I didn’t know how epic it was until I started doing some research.

VN: How did your experience at GBDuro influence your decision to do the CT as a time trial?
LM: I had such an incredible experience [in the U.K.] that I wanted to explore and build on that further. I have a huge pull to these endurance events. It’s just a test against yourself. There hasn’t been a night in the last month where I haven’t had a dream about it.

VN: You were signed up for the grand depart of the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) on July 29. Why did you decide to pursue the ITT on your own?
LM: I’d love to have done it starting with everyone but in the end it became a matter of not enough time. To come back from a long event like that just before Leadville and Utah seemed a bit reckless. I also didn’t want any pressure on time. If it takes longer than expected I want to enjoy that and not have stress.

VN: Have you ridden sections of it before? Have you followed the CTR in the past? What’s been your source of information about the trail?
LM: I’ve ridden/hiked a small section between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. It blew my mind. That’s when I started thinking about what a huge challenge this will be. I didn’t know there was a race to be honest. I’d heard of people riding it but that’s it. It’s a whole new world to me. The internet has a lot of information. I’m trying to have enough info to be prepared but not so much that I have expectations; I want to discover it as it comes.

VN: Which direction are you riding, and why?
LM: Durango to Denver. It’ll be closer to my bed when I’m finished.

VN: What are you most excited about? Nervous about?
LM: I’m excited to discover the trail really. I’m nervous about everything: wildlife, weather, the severity of trails, the hiking, night riding… everything.

VN: What’s your experience doing self-supported bike-packing?
LM: I don’t have much. A few trips by myself in Australia. GBduro. That’s about it.

VN: You’ve set a fundraising goal of $10,000 for the Starlight Foundation’s Tour de Kids Challenge. Why are you riding for a cause?
LM: What’s better than helping kids while bettering yourself? It’s the nicest thing I can think of.

VN: You’ve said that mountain biking in the Rocky Mountains is some of the most difficult for you. Is this ride more of a physical challenge or a mental one?
LM: Absolutely both. Anything this long where you’re down physically, that’s when you have to rely on your head.

Lachlan’s spread of gear for the Colorado Trail. Photo: Betsy Welch

On gear choices

VN: Shoe choice is always on people’s mind for all the hike-a-bike. What are you wearing?
LM: Just my Rapha Explore clipless shoes, and I might throw in some New Balance sandals just in case.

VN: Food and resupplying is also a favorite topic. What is your nutrition plan?
LM: I’ll carry what I need for the sections between re-supply options. I think after Silverton is a long haul, so I’ll no doubt be pretty loaded up coming out of there. I eat whatever I find in the gas stations. I’m using water purification tablets, and I’ll no doubt pack some instant coffee.

VN: Bivy, tent, or tarp?
LM: Bivy, air mat, and sleeping bag.

VN: Hardtail vs. full suspension and why?
LM: Full suspension. It makes the riding more fun.