In honor of a lost friend, Lachlan Morton takes on the Colorado Trail
‘If you miss the point of the route in your attempt to go fast, you’ve just missed the point altogether’
When Lachlan Morton clips into his pedals and sets off on the 530-mile Colorado Trail on Tuesday, he’ll carry the memory of his friend Sule Kangangi with him.
Sule recently lost his life while racing. He had traveled from his native Kenya to race with his fellow riders from Team AMANI in the US. Through racing and training together in Africa, Europe and the US, Lachlan and Sule had become friends. As Lachlan was preparing for the ride, he learned of Sule’s passing. Lachlan will dedicate his Colorado Trail ride to his friend, carrying Sule’s memory over the passes and through the Colorado clouds.
“If I’m being honest, I've just tried to keep myself very busy which I know is not necessarily the right way to do it but I know I’m going to have a lot of time out there to think about him. No doubt, I’ll be thinking about him for sure,” Lachlan says. He also wants to use the ride to support Sule’s family.
There is a GoFundMe to support Sule’s family that has raised more than $70,000, and Lachlan, the team, and Cannondale have partnered with the organizer to set up a sweepstakes to raise more funds. Donors will be registered to win a complete bicycle from Cannonade and other team-issue gear. Click here to enter and support the Kangangi family.
The Colorado Trail runs between Denver and Durango, covering about 530 miles (850 kilometers) with nearly 75,000 feet (23,000 meters) of elevation gain. And did we mention most of the route is at altitude, hovering around 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) and topping out at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) elevation?
Naturally, Lachlan is planning to ride it unsupported — again. And because this is Lachlan, he’ll go as fast as he can for as long as he can.
“I did it once before in 2019 and it really kicked my butt,” he said. “It was by far the hardest ride I’d done. The severity of the route. It was very slow going. It took me four days and I was hiking for probably 12 hours. It’s very technical and unrelenting.”
By the time he had finished the trail, he was broken — and hooked.
“It was everything I could do to finish it. I’ve thought about it at least every week since then, how much it kicked my butt and how much I need to go back and try to make peace with the route,” he said.
There was a time when targeting Neil Beltchenko’s time of 3 days, 19 hours, and 50 minutes, the current fastest known time on the Colorado Trail, would have been Lachlan’s primary goal. Though he still loves to go fast, the Australian prefers now to focus on the experience of the ride itself and how he will face the inevitable challenges that arise. If going the fastest is part of that, all the better.
“A few years ago, I was very intrigued by FKTs because I think it’s cool that you can take a route that anyone can do and test yourself on it. For example, on this route, the people who’ve been really fast on it have spent years perfecting the way they go about riding it. That’s interesting to see what the possibilities are. I think now I’m a little less interested in that. I’m just trying to see how fast I can move through it in a way that I’m happy with. If that means that’s faster than what anyone else has done, I don’t mind. If you miss the point of the route in your attempt to go fast, you’ve just missed the point altogether.”
By Lachlan’s metrics, the point is to confront a challenge where uncertainty is present. It’s about putting himself in uncomfortable situations and seeing how he responds.
“It’s not about chasing the record. It’s about having that experience. I think about the route in its entirety and it still scares me in a way which is cool. It’s good to have a challenge where it is very uncertain if you can achieve it. I know I’ve improved in all the areas that brought me undone last time. It’s about applying those improvements, not to go faster but to enrich the experience. The most satisfying thing for me is to put myself in seemingly extreme conditions like being over 12,000 feet on a very technical single track at 2 a.m. when it’s zero degrees celsius and windy. To be comfortable in that situation, that’s what I find rewarding. The last time I was in that situation, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in way over my head, I’m scared.’ To be able to come back knowing I’ve accumulated the experiences and skills necessary and to come back and be in the same situation but this time it’s, ‘Wow, I'm enjoying this. This is a cool challenge.’ That’s the thing I’m looking for.”
Riding the Colorado Trail unsupported makes the route that much more of a test and that much more appealing.
“That’s kind of the key to the whole thing, unsupported. It’s very remote and isolated and chances to get supplies are few and far between. It’s a big challenge.”
He has been studying the weather and the logistics and currently plans to set out sometime on Tuesday, September 6.
“It’s a route that will chew up any expectations that you have over and over again. I’m very hesitant to put too many concrete plans on it. I’ll definitely sleep, it’s so long. Mentally, I’m not going to break it up into different days, more like experiencing it as one ride. As a result of that, I’ll probably be going fast on the route. The outcome I’m looking for is not whether I break the record or not. It’s more whether I’m happy with the ride I’ve put together and whether or not I have to come back again and do it,” Lachlan laughed. “That’s my goal.”
Lachlan hopes to set off around midday on September 6th. Follow his progress on the Colorado Trail here.
Enter the sweepstakes and support Sule Kangangi’s family here.