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.
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).
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].”
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.
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.
“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 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.”
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.
Related: How Hard are Tour de France Stages?
Photo Credits: Rapha