• Lachlan Morton enjoying a chat pre-race (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After wearing yellow jerseys at big American tours in 2013 and then losing heart for professional cycling, Lachlan Morton has fashioned a personal version of “living the dream.” Heading into a souped-up Tour of Alberta, the sport’s hi-octane pressures appear to remain at bay.
Mary Topping

1 Sep 2015 - 8:55 AM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2015 - 8:56 AM

Lachlan Morton has upended the traditional definition of success for a rising young rider.

After a dispiriting 2014 season and soul-searching 2000 kilometre bike trek halfway across Australia with older brother Gus, the young phenom traded a World Tour set-up for an American continental squad. Now with Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis Cycling Team, competition slots into building a good life instead of provoking obsessive focus. Additionally, he races alongside one of his best mates: Gus.

“It’s easy to be overwhelmed by pro cycling when really it’s not that big of a thing,” he said, speaking at this year’s USA Pro Challenge and mentioning that half the people wandering around that day’s start village couldn’t explain the meaning of all the hullabaloo.

“I know now that it shouldn’t be all-consuming and there is a lot more out there.”

The 23-year-old sat on a tan cushioned bench inside a camper van speckled with jelly bean images. Black travel bags littered a carpeted open space sans USB ports or fancy recliner hideaways.

The Jelly Belly vehicle fit the vision Lachlan imagined when embarking on this experimental kind of year – an intimate atmosphere where he could thrive while racing the bike. It included plenty of hours with Gus and close kin.

“I was hoping to enjoy the sport more and find a relaxed, smaller environment where you are cared for more as a person, not just as a rider,” he said.

Comparing Jelly Belly to a small family, Lachlan said it exceeded what he had imagined. “I enjoy the preparation and the purpose it gives me,” he said about racing now.

On the road the siblings share a room. They’ve raced together at nearly every event; Gus missed the Amgen Tour of California due to injury.

Gus and Lachlan live under one roof with their parents and wives in Boulder, Colorado, a far cry from the isolation the latter experienced in Europe. Only a sister resides away from the fold, in Australia. She joined the family in Breckenridge at the USA Pro Challenge.

The arrangement works for the team boss too, who doesn’t view it as an experiment. “I know how well these riders can do, and it’s been proven this year with the results they have,” said general manager Danny Van Haute.

In January Gus finished nine seconds behind winner Heinrich Haussler at Australia’s road championships; since then he’s held his own in the pack. Lachlan aimed for the Colorado podium and placed fifth, trying a solo move on Stage 6. He set a top 10 expectation for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah earlier in August; he finished tenth.

“I was kind of happy with it,” he said. “It wasn’t anything special, but it’s a solid result.”

Mixing a relaxed competition milieu with ambitions for top results is “a hard thing to do,” Lachlan admitted. “Having a family that will be there win, lose or draw helps keep it all in perspective.” 

Morton brothers 2.0

When the Mortons signed on with Jelly Belly they joined a squad going on a 16-year history with a colourful kit that delights spectators. “We are a family-fan-base team,” said Van Haute. “Everybody from age five to 80 knows the Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis Cycling Team.”

The sibling’s current scene harkens back to days when they raced together as kids in Australia and then across Colorado and Wyoming in America with a six-week summer program managed by their parents. As the elder Mortons whisked their sons around the world, they stirred up a thirst for adventure and a search for authenticity.

“I think we’ve always been brought up to not take life too seriously,” Gus noted, and then added a guiding mantra: work hard at what you love and you’ll succeed at it for a lifetime. “So I think with that mentality we’ve always thought, ‘Let’s do the things that we want to do.’”

Five years ago Gus dropped cycling after a three-year stint with Drapac-Porsche. He pursued a profession in film and television as a director.

About his return to racing, Gus said, “I guess I had a little bit of unfinished business. I don’t think I ever fulfilled my potential completely. But I think the main thing is, it was an adventure to see if I could be good enough to race again, on a team with my brother.” At age 26 he also thought the risk and travel would broaden his horizons and thus his breadth as a director.

In some respects it seems like the pair’s situation rings too good to be true. Pundits wonder if the winning killer instinct required in this ruthless sport exists beneath Lachlan’s laidback exterior.

The Tour of Alberta p/b ATB Financial, which opens September 2, could address that speculation. With more climbing and uphill finishes in this edition, the event could favour the younger Morton if his squad fares well in the team time trial.

According to Gus, he and Lachlan want to extend with the team. Their agreement with Jelly Belly ends with this season of racing.