The unlikely duo

Lachlan Morton will team up with Keegan Swenson for the Cape Epic

February 28, 2023

Lachlan Morton is nervous.

That’s not normal. But he’s lining up for the Cape Epic again, and this time his partner is none other than American multi-disciplinary machine Keegan Swenson. While the two race for different teams throughout the season, they will take the start in South Africa together in a joint kit.

Swenson races cross-country world cups, and has put his stamp on the American gravel scene for years, winning last season’s Life Time Grand Prix. From the 19th to the 26th of March, he will push Lachy to his breaking point, as the two of them take on two-rider teams of mountain-bike pros for eight straight days, over the rugged sandstone hills, shrubland, and vineyards of South Africa’s Western Cape. The Cape Epic is the closest thing off-road bike racing has to the Tour de France. It’s part of Lachy’s plan to kick up his mountain-biking another notch.

“Racing with Keegan is going to be awesome,” Lachlan says. “He is probably the strongest and most experienced partner I am ever going to get for this race. When he asked me if I was interested in doing it, I had to think about it, because I was worried I was not going to be on his level. Then, I realised that I had a few months to focus and get ready to test myself against the world’s best mountain bikers. It is kind of a daunting prospect, but the fact that I was scared about it, and am nervous about it, means that it is a worthwhile thing to take on.”

"It is kind of a daunting prospect, but the fact that I was scared about it, and am nervous about it, means that it is a worthwhile thing to take on."

- Lachlan Morton

This year, there might be fewer rugby matches between stages for Lachy back at camp. Last time he rode the Cape Epic, he did so with his friend Kenneth Karaya and fell in love with the unique atmosphere of the event. Beside the pro race, hundreds of amateur teams trek to South Africa to compete, and they all pitch tents under the stars at night. Lachlan will come back to ride in South Africa every chance he gets. For this year’s race, Keegan has encouraged him to heighten his goals though, and Lachlan has been training hard to be competitive. He and Keegan are going to South Africa to race.

“I have just been doing a lot of very specific and really intense training on my mountain bike with the focus of trying to be as ready physically and technically come the start line,” Lachlan says. “It has been a fun process. Regardless of what happens at the race, I am glad to have gone through the process of getting ready for it, and being a bit scared and accountable to someone else, because I think no matter what it is going to set me up well for the season, but I am also just interested to see how it all goes, putting everything together for eight days. If I can get out the performances that I have been able to start to produce in training at the race, and hit the same performances in the race, I’ll be happy.”

Keegan isn’t afraid to put a number on their ambitions. Last year, he finished third on the final stage and thinks he and Lachlan can do better.

“I think that Lachlan and I have a good chance of a good result down there at the Cape Epic,” he says. “I have looked up to Lachlan as a rider for a long time. He has done some really cool things in the sport, and it has been good to see what he has done in his transition from racing WorldTour to then racing ultra-endurance stuff to then coming back to racing the Life Time series last year. We have gotten to become pretty good friends. Lachlan brings a lot of good tactical advice and tactical race smarts from the road and has been doing a fair bit of mountain biking. I think he brings a lot to the table. I have been racing mountain bikes for a bit longer, so I can help push the pace on the descents and set a good tempo for us when it gets rough. It would be nice to try to win a stage or two and go for the GC. We are going to have a good time. We are going to make a good team out there.”

"We are going to have a good time. We are going to make a good team out there."

- Keegan Swenson

Get ready for an action-packed eight days of racing. The Cape Epic is a spectacular event for its competitors and spectators.

“You just have this superfast bunch of world-class mountain bikers ripping across epic terrain — singletrack, rocky jeep roads, and gravel roads — day in and day out,” Lachlan says. “There are so many things that factor in like equipment, fitness, technical ability, your ability to recover, heat. There are a million things to put together to have a good performance out there. Even the people who win normally have a bunch of things go wrong and have to adapt. It’s the original sort of adventure race, and the fact that it’s not just elite level riders, but there are thousands of other competitors who are striving just to get through the course, and we get to share the course and the village with all of those people, makes the atmosphere very special.”

For Keegan, the fact that the Cape Epic is raced in pairs — as a safety measure, so riders can look after each other in the remote South African bush — is what makes it great.

“You are not just relying on yourself,” he says. “You have to take care of your partner and your partner needs to take care of you. You need to strategize for how the days will play out and that adds a whole other dynamic to racing that most other races don’t have, so I am really looking forward to it. Lachlan is probably one of the chillest dudes I know, so I think it is going to be fun racing with him. I am excited. We are ready to get cracking.”

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