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July 16, 2021

What’s More Strenuous Than the Tour de France?

Pro cyclist Lachlan Morton bikepacked the entire Tour de France on his own, rode an additional 1,303 miles, and beat the peloton to Paris by more than 5 days.

By Mark Van Deusen

Shortly after the Tour de France officially began, EF Education First – NIPPO cyclist Lachlan Morton embarked along the route himself, riding solo without the support of his team. Raising money for World Bike Relief, Lachlan’s goal was to cross the finish line in Paris before the race competitors did.

 

Lachlan Morton’s Alt Tour

In the early days of the Tour de France, riders navigated their way through the countryside on their own, stopping in cafes to eat and doing repairs to their bikes themselves. They also didn’t take team buses, cars or flights between stages.

This is what Lachlan Morton did. He camped under the stars, skipped the rest days and pedaled the entire distance from stage to stage. Over 18 days, Lachlan rode 3,424 miles and spent 225 hours on the bike (roughly 12 hours per day).

Lachlan Morton's alt tour stats

 

Bikepacking the Tour De France

If you’re not familiar with the concept of bikepacking, check out our story on Ted King winning the Arkansas High Country Race.

While completing the Alt Tour, Lachlan noted that his time off the bike was practically as challenging as the riding itself. “The most difficult part is packing up day after day, riding 12 hours, and the short space you have in between to do a lot of things,” he said. “When I finish I’ve got to find some food, get a shower, clean my clothes, set up camp, try to get some sleep, and look at the route for the next day. That’s the challenge, it’s a lot of things to do in a short space of time when you’re not physically exerting yourself [on the bike].”

Lachlan morton alt tour camping

Lachlan Morton spent his Alt Tour sleeping in a bivy sack and carrying everything he needed with him on the bike.

Ridiculous Strain

Last year, we discussed the immense strain of the Tour de France. Lachlan’s ride took it to another level. “It’s a very different [kind of] tired,” he said. “It takes me 2-3 hours to get going, then I have 5 hours where I feel really good, then the last 4-5 hours is really difficult again. The toll on my body is a lot more, I’ve got blisters and chafe everywhere. Each day I’ve kind of hit my limit in some way, but I haven’t had a total meltdown so that’s a highlight.”

While many of Lachlan’s highest daily strain numbers (20.7s on a 0-21 scale) were similar to his teammates competing in the race, he did not have the benefit of shorter stages or rest days.

Lachlan Mortan data days 1-10

Lachlan’s RECOVERY was 97% to begin his Alt Tour, but it dropped considerably over the first 10 days.

For example, on Day 5 when his teammates rode a brief 17-mile time trial and averaged a 16.6 strain, Lachlan biked for 231 miles and posted a 20.4 strain. He pushed his body to the max for 18 consecutive days, averaging daily strains of 20.6.

lachlan morton data days 11-19

Lachlan’s strain peaked at 20.8 on the final leg of his Alt Tour. Two days later his recovery was back in the green.

Sleep and Recovery?

“When you do a regular Grand Tour, from the second you finish a stage until the second you start the next stage, everything’s dedicated around getting you to recover physically for the next stage,” Lachlan explained. “So you get the best sleep, you get massages, you get the best food. Whereas here I ride twice as long each day, so that already cuts massively into any recovery time, and then you’ve got to sort out all those things yourself.”

Lachlan morton alt tour sandals

Lachlan spent the majority of his Alt Tour cycling in sandals. His bike was also significantly heavier than what race riders used.

Lachlan averaged about 5-6 hours of sleep per night during his epic journey. After his 10th day of riding (and a fourth consecutive 20.7 day strain), he said:

“I’ve had probably on average two hours of sleep less than I normally would [per night during the Tour]. My WHOOP recovery score after last night was 33% because there was a bullfighting contest going on next to my campsite.”

Incredible Finish

On the last day of his Alt Tour (following just 4 hours and 38 minutes of sleep and with a 27% recovery) Lachlan continued riding straight through the night, spending more than 20 hours on the bike to travel 358 miles. He finished in Paris at 5:30 am on Tuesday, July 13th.

Lachlan burned an absurd 12,000+ calories that day and put up a WHOOP strain of 20.8, something we very rarely see.

lachlan morton alt tour finish

Lachlan completed his Alt Tour in Paris at 5:30 am after riding all night long.

Join us in supporting Lachlan’s efforts to aid World Bike Relief.

 

Related: How Hard are Tour de France Stages?

 

Photo Credits: Rapha

 

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Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen is the Content Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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