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July 14, 2021

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Aussie pursues his own Tour

Lachlan Morton has made a career out of racing bikes, but he’s not aiming for the podium in this summer’s Tour de France — instead he focuses on getting enough to eat and keeping dry.

“I’ve made a few mistakes with running out of food, getting everything wet, sleeping in a wet sleeping bag,” the 29-year-old Australian said at a cafe in southern France, a carton of milk and a beer at hand.

Lugging his gear on a carbon-fibre Cannondale, Morton is pursuing what his EF Education-Nippo team calls the Alt Tour, a solo no-support journey along the official route.

But unlike the Tour riders — he began an hour after the official start on June 26 — he is also biking the distance between the various stages while the main tour is transported from one stage to the next.

To keep cool during his 12-hour days, he swapped his clipless pedals in favor of open-toe sandals. By the time he rolls into Paris, Morton will have traveled 5,500 kilometers, compared with 3,414km for this year’s official Tour.

“This is my favorite style of riding a bike,” he said. “It’s very peaceful, you get to know yourself very well and the landscape and the place you are in.”

Morton’s tour is a charity ride for World Bicycle Relief, which provides rugged, low-maintenance bikes to poor rural areas, for children to get to school for example or farmers to transport more to market.

“It was actually my boss’s idea,” he said. “He asked me if I thought it was possible and I said ‘sure, I’ll give it a go.’”

It’s also a chance to complete the Tour in a spirit closer to its roots, when riders were supposed to be self-sufficient and no assistance was allowed.

While his teammates get massages, hot meals and a hotel bed at the end of their days, Morton finds a campground and blows up an inflatable mattress that barely fits into his bivy sack.

Morton has also met plenty of well-wishers, including riders who come out to join him as he travels through their towns or tackles a tough ascent.


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