In a sport that can so often appear rendered by its dedication, and where tunnel-vision often produces the greatest spoils of success, I spoke with a guy that is contorting that fabric of expectation tied to being a professional cyclist.
Lachlan Morton is rejecting the often so natural robotics of elite athleticism, saying, ‘but hey, aren’t you missing the point?’
Everyone starts riding because it feels good and it’s fun, but Morton says that the strive pursuing money and fame can lead to a sacrifice of that primal joy.
To illustrate a point, Lachlan and his older brother Angus just got back from an adventure in which they rode from Sydney to Uluru, as a part of some base kilometres for Lachlan’s pre-season training.
They made a documentary with a friend along the way called Here or Thereabouts, and it has been attracting attention all around the world for its romantic reminder about what cycling can actually be, besides weekly training schedules and early nights.
They went searching for the real joy in cycling, and they found it.
The Mortons are unique, they rode across Australian desert in full-brimmed hats and button up shirts, shucking the constricting uniform and just letting go by riding, feeling good and chasing their physical limits.
I asked Morton how his creative and unrestrained culture helps contrast the tunnel-vision that professional sport so often requires, and whether it makes him question such a lifestyle of restraint.
“I like photography but I’m not trained in it, and my camera isn’t anything special,” he said.
“I think there is so much to be photographed in pro cycling that is skipped over for the done-to-death sunflower field shot.
“I like it because it helps me document my life as I go through the blur. Sitting now in France watching Romeo and Juliet in French makes me question my cycling life more so than photography.”
AS: Ok. Why do you race? Or why do you ride instead of choosing to do something else? Is the balance between a monk-like lifestyle and cultural expansion a challenge for you?
LM: I like to be able to go to bed and think about all the possible places I could ride tomorrow. There aren’t many ways to maintain a lifestyle where you are able to do that. Professional cycling is one.
A bike race is also one of the only places and I’m a competitive person. I do however, constantly weigh up the pros and cons. Training rides and intervals are filled with thoughts of a better alternative or outlet, but when you have those moments when your cruising some descent five hours into a ride and its cool in the mountains, but the sun’s out and you have nowhere else to be, it’s a hard trade off.
Like everyone, self doubt is a big factor that keeps me a little scared of the big bad world as well.
AS: Was your upbringing artistic and cultured? Or did you acquire your creativity elsewhere? How has that helped you get where you are as a pro?
LM: Cultured maybe, I travelled a fair bit. I wouldn’t say artistic. My parents aren’t really artistic. I don’t really see myself as creative, I think it’s relative. You put a blue canvas next to a white one and it seems interesting.
I just try and take a little from all the people I meet and the places I go. If I could apply the stuff that goes on in my head I think I could be artistic, but at school I was too busy riding to pick up an instrument or a paint brush so I’m not really equipped with the skills to express all my thoughts.
Creativity is more of a hindrance to my career as a bike rider than a helper.
AS: Which aspect of professional racing do you most despise?
LM: Pasta, hotel time, travelling places but not seeing them, selfishness, egos and the way it makes me sometimes.
AS: Ok, so you tried to break all of these restraints and expectations with your Thereabouts trip to Uluru right? And on that note, what’s the best bit about riding your bike in a Hawaiian shirt?
LM: Yeah, we did. Well, what’s the best bit about wearing a Hawaiian shirt normally? It looks great, buttons to personalise, wind flow to match the conditions, the beach look, it’s trendy. No, it’s more of a feeling of freedom. You pull on a team jersey and you are put into a category. The bike should be a leveller, not a way to pigeonhole someone by what kit they are in.
AS: Changing topic somewhat, can you give me a run down of your diet in general?
LM: I try and eat well. I’d eat a lot better if I wasn’t a pro bike rider. When I’m training and racing you have to eat a lot of bread and shit. When I’m at home though, it’s barbecues, beers and veggies.
AS: Last, but not least, where do you live in Europe? What’s the best thing for you in living there?
LM: Girona, Spain. I like Catalunya, it’s an interesting place. The riding is great, the fresh food is great. The best bit is exploring new roads and the second morning at 5:30pm when everyone wakes up again. It’s a morning vibe again except with more beer. It’s great.
AS: Is there anything else you want to say?
LM: I hope I can have the courage to realise my dreams. Or just make sense of them. Things are easier when you and the people around you know what you want.