Is it important that the list of things you need to know to understand the title of this article includes?
1. Lachlan Morton is a cyclist.
2. He rides for Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis.
3. There was a jazz pianist called Jelly Roll Morton
I knew all those things and it hasn’t really made me enjoy the title much more than if it were just a string of words. If you want to learn about anyone of those things then I suggest you go check out Jelly Roll’s ‘Make Me A Pallet On The Floor’. The rest I’ll hopefully do a decent job of covering.
For most of us Lachlan Morton was a promising young cyclist, who some were tipping as a potential Grand Tour winner some years down the line. For most of us he was also another promising young rider who struggled to settle in Europe. Another young rider whose dreams of competing in the World Tour didn’t tally with the actuality of living thousands of miles away from all that is familiar.
You could be forgiven for not giving Morton another thought as he gradually disappeared from races before disappearing from the Garmin-Sharp roster altogether. There’s no shame in that, it’s the fate that awaits many young riders each year. A brief trip up the ladder to taste of the top level of the sport before a quick slide down the snake to one of the lower tiers. If they’re lucky they might work their way back up to the world tour. If they’re slightly less lucky they might forge a decent career at the Pro-Continental and Continental levels. Others might just say goodbye to the sport forever. You’ll have to ask them whether that was lucky or unlucky. I reckon you’ll get a decent split of answers.
The interesting thing about the case of Lachlan Morton is not just the disparity between the weight of expectation and the actual race results. Sure, the bigger the fall from grace the more tragically compelling the story. No, what makes this tale so refreshing is what Lachlan did about it.
In 2013, his first year with Garmin-Sharp, all looked to be progressing the right way for Morton. He took the young riders jersey in two major races, the USA Pro Challenge and the Tour of Utah. He was 5th overall in the former. To any team these are pretty big races, but to an American team they are huge moments in the season.
Then 2014 came. Visa issues prevented him from racing in the states. Isolated and lonely in Europe the results quickly disappeared. Waste of talent and spoilt brat were some of the words used to describe the rider. But rather than hide away and let his experience poison his love of cycling, Morton did something about it.
Perhaps the disappointment of seeing a pro-career slip away was lessened by the fact that Lachlan had seen his brother call time on a fledgling career. Gus Morton quit the sport in 2010 after 2 years with the Australian Drapac-Porsche team. Perhaps seeing that you could quit cycling and still have a great life also hastened Lachlan’s desire to turn his back on the European pro-scene. Whichever way you look at it, his brother is key to the story, and key to Lachlan’s cycling rebirth.
That rebirth started with the ride that became the film, that became this writer’s inspiration to do as many rides in a denim shirt, bib short combo as possible. The ride was a 2500km trip from Port Macquarie to Uluru in just twelve days. It mostly seemed to involve Lachlan and Gus drafting at ridiculous speeds behind a car, drinking in shady outback hotels, and being impossibly hip with it all. The ride also became the documentary, Thereabouts.
What you notice from watching Thereabouts is that racing isn’t the only way to enjoy riding, but that instinct to push yourself to your limits is common to every way. The moral that Thereabouts wants you to take from it, is that you have to find your love for something before you can really excel at it. Apparently it did the trick as both Lachlan and the previously retired, Gus, both wound up with the US based Jelly Belly team.
As someone who loves the romance of a great sporting comeback story, it put both riders much higher up on my google predictive search list. In 2015 Gus finished 7th in the Australian National Championship, a result I wouldn’t have noticed before watching thereabouts, but one that gave me hope that an incredible story might soon be completed.
Thereabouts 2 appeared late in 2015, apparently being able to do epic rides for fun, and film them, was a stipulation in the contract when Lachlan and Gus joined Jelly Belly. Like all sequels it’s customary to base them in a different country. While that didn’t work for Sex And The City 2, the results for Thereabouts 2 were much more rewarding. This time the trip was from Boulder to Moab over 5 days, but now with an expanded cast of riders who needed to rediscover their cycling mojo.
Taylor Phinney joined the brothers for the ride as he was coming back from his career threatening leg break that happened at the US National Road Championshops in 2014. Also along for the ride, and balancing the hipster to bloke ratio was Cam Wurf. who was without a team having left the Cannondale set up.
This isn’t a review of either film although both have inspired me to do something similar, however Thereabouts 2 suffers from focusing too much on Phinney and Wurf and not finding out how Lachlan and Gus have found racing alongside each other. Hell, no one even asks Gus how it is being back in the pro peloton.
If Thereabouts 3 happens then I hope someone asks Lachlan to talk about his reemergence as a top level rider. That reemergence was hinted at in 2015 when he finished 5th at the USA Pro Challenge and 10th at the Tour of Utah. It was confirmed when, last week, he won the 2016 Tour of the Gila. Lachlan also admitted that he hasn’t ruled out a return to the World Tour.
With the eyes of the cycling world currently on the Giro, it would be easy to let the Tour of California slip by as no more than a series of articles you might read on Cycling News. Not for me. I’ll be braving the ever-changing graphics, flitting between miles and kilometers left to race. I’ll be unflinching when watching a drunken frat boy chase the bunch up a mountain. I’ll hold my nerve when it gets to way past my bedtime but there’s still at least an hour of racing left. I’ll be doing so to keep my eye on Lachlan Morton, and the hope that a rider I fell in love with can complete a fairytale comeback. If he gets a big result then maybe Thereabouts 3 will see the bunch ride to Neverland, or somewhere that is definitely in a fairytale.