USA Pro Challenge: The Brothers Morton ride for Jelly Belly-Maxxis
Lachlan Morton knows a thing or two about being the dark horse.
In 2013, at just 21 years old, the Australian native was racing for the now-defunct Garmin-Sharp developmental team at the USA Pro Challenge when he pulled off something of a miracle between Aspen and Breckenridge. Since the age of 16, he’d been on top-tier developmental teams, splitting time between Spain, his hometown north of Sydney and Boulder — his newly-adopted hometown. He was familiar with dizzying altitudes on Independence and Hoosier passes, and, when the break dropped into Breckenridge for the first-ever Main Street finish, he knew when to make a move.
And, so, he did. Morton didn’t quite come away with the overall stage win — that went to BMC Racing superstar Mathias Franck — but his strategic descent through forested switchbacks and hairpins gave Garmin-Sharp the lead. It also gave the young Aussie his first yellow jersey in a major international race.
Now 23 years old, he’s hungry for another shot at the leader’s jersey. He and brother Angus — he goes by Gus, Lachlan goes by Lachy — now race for the Jelly Belly-Maxxis team, the oldest domestic team in the 2015 Pro Challenge. Their careers have waxed and waned in just two years, with Angus battling the demands of living and cycling in Europe, while his brother fell out of the sport altogether until signing with Jelly Belly before this season.
For team manager Danny Van Haute, the Mortons are welcome addition to the roster. Angus is a “team” specialist, known for setting up lead riders and spotting break opportunities, while Lachlan is a strong all-arounder, with two past Pro Challenge races on his resume. Both have a feel for Colorado roads — they live and train here every year — and both have experience racing at the elite level.
Before a pre-Pro Challenge training ride over Loveland Pass, the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with the Mortons to talk about the Jelly Belly team, the perks of riding as brothers and Lachlan’s return to Main Street Breckenridge.
Summit Daily News: It’s rare to see two brothers on the pro cycling circuit, let alone on the same team. Do you enjoy that dynamic?
Lachlan Morton: It’s really cool having your brother on the team. It makes it more of a home environment, you know? We always room together, we live together in Boulder, so it’s a nice thing to have on an everyday basis. It also helps in a race situation. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When we were younger, we were definitely competitive, but, these days, that has kind of fallen away. There are enough other riders to push you that you don’t have to worry about your brother.
SDN: Like many of the competitors in Colorado this week, you two grew up riding the relatively flat terrain of Australia. There just aren’t any steep climbs like you find in the European Alps or Rocky Mountains. What does training look like at home?
LM: We just don’t have mountains like this. It’s all pretty rolling — I think the highest point in Australia is just over 2,000 meters (Ed: Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228 meters, or 7,310 feet). We were born on the coast, just sea level. But it’s nice riding — just very green.
Angus Morton: It’s a lot more humid, though, like rainforest.
LM: It’s like anything. It takes time to adapt, just like coming to altitude. You sweat a lot out there.
SDN: How do you adjust to altitude when it’s time for a race? Were you two at sea level before this week?
LM: We trained in Breckenridge for the last month to train for Tour of Utah, so no, we’ve been at altitude. That’s how you have to do it. We live in Boulder now, which is kind of high, but you still have to be used to cycling at 3,000 meters (9,000 feet). It’s a whole different game, really.
But, there are a whole bunch of places in the Boulder area for climbing and altitude, like heading to Nederland and the Peak-to-Peak highway. That’s the nice thing about America, in general. You have a lot of roads: For every one road in Australia, you guys have four. There’s a lot of variety, and the mountain roads take you just about everywhere.
SDN: Looking ahead to the Pro Challenge, what stage do you think will test your strengths the most, will be the toughest from start to finish?
AM: They’re all pretty tough. It’s like that classic saying: “You might not be able to win a race every day, but you can lose it every day.” I’m thinking Stages 2, 3 and 4 are very challenging. You have that finish at Loveland on the second day, then you have Independence Pass the next day, then Independence and Hoosier the day after that.
The time trial will also be tough — an individual time trial is always brutal. You want to find that line between being at your limit and pushing your limit, and that line is very tough to find at altitude. That will be one of the big challenges, just to understand and know what you body can handle at this altitude.
SDN: How do you prepare for pushing to that threshold?
AM: You do specific training, but, in the end, it’s riding, learning and knowing where that line is yourself. Nothing beats time in the saddle. When you’re racing at altitude, you have to spend time at altitude. You have to be confident in yourself. Sure, you have coaches and specific training programs and nutrition, but no one can tell you, “Go ride this and ride it this way.” You just have to know those limits to perform your best. A race is a dynamic situation — you can’t replicate it.
SDN: Lachlan, you’ve been on several teams in the past few years. Why is Jelly Belly a good fit at this point in your career?
LM: I was racing in Europe for a few years, and I didn’t really enjoy racing in there much. It was a very professional world, a professional environment, and I started bike racing for fun. It was a bit of a culture shock. I was also living there by myself, and I didn’t enjoy that as much. It was nice to come to America because even though the racing is still very, very hard, it’s also more fun. Jelly Belly helped revitalize my interest in racing.
AM: I had four years out of the sport, so for me, it was a matter of finding a team that would take me initially. It’s a great environment. Danny runs the team like a family.
LM: Yeah, he actually cares about the riders, and that’s getting more rare in professional sports.
SDN: Again, looking at your strengths, what stage has you chomping at the bit and ready to prove yourself?
LM: I like the stage into Breckenridge. Last time we did that, the Aspen-to-Breckenridge route, I took second and took the yellow jersey. There are good memories there. One nice thing about this race is we have been training in Colorado now for 10 years, so it’s the closest thing we have to a home now. I’m looking forward to all those stages because I know it.
AM: For me, I’m in a different situation from Lachy. I’m coming back after a long time away, so that first stage is one I like. I also think I’ll like that stage into Fort Collins. The climbs aren’t as big, and there are a few more breakaway moments, the sort that are good for an opportunist. In the high mountains, the smaller guys will probably excel. But, that said, this is our home race, essentially. All the stages will be fun — each day will be its own challenge — but I’m looking forward to it all.
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