Lachlan Morton Wins 2024 Unbound Gravel: A Personal Reflection


Lachlan Morton Wins 2024 Unbound Gravel: A Personal Reflection

Last weekend, Lachlan Morton’s historic record-setting win at Unbound Gravel felt like a rare moment that all cycling fans could celebrate. The Australian pro rider’s journey has been anything but ordinary. For many of us at The Radavist, Lachy represents a soul rider who continually manages to rise above the drama of gravel racing and win for all the right reasons.

Below, Nic Morales offers a meditation on what Morton’s victory in Emporia means to the broader cycling community, accompanied by photos from Richard Pool.

“Isn’t there anyone you look up to? Someone you want to be like?”

During a particularly disappointing ride home from school one day, my mom asked me this question. I was in trouble again, and she was attempting to get me to realize the things I was doing at the time weren’t becoming of someone who had a successful future. I wasn’t exactly a picture-perfect kid. It felt like I fought with my folks nearly every day. I was consumed with the things that allowed my mind to wander, preoccupied with ideas of adventure I found in books, video games, and sometimes sports, my attention largely unfocused and difficult to keep on task. Ever energetic in physical endeavors, I always had the aptitude but never the application.

That question sat with me for years. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up idolizing people. I never had a true, organic role model. That isn’t to say I held myself to some lofty standard that no mere mortal could achieve. No one fully encapsulated or embodied things that truly inspired my sense of awe.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I went through a pretty significant breakup. What rocked me most was that the failure of the relationship had laid bare all of my shortcomings as a person. I had to grapple with them. I’m still grappling with them now. But it’s fair to say I was in a vulnerable, impressionable place.

Lachlan on the Alt Tour Circa 2021

Then something called “The Alt Tour” hit my YouTube recommended page. With a lot more free time in my new bachelor pad, I threw it on. And man, I was hooked.

The first watch was just one of many. There was so much to take in. I didn’t know you could ride a bike that far, nor did I know you could load it up with things that allowed you to sleep and eat and go anywhere. I didn’t know you could go that fast, day after day. Most of all, I didn’t know you could be like Lachlan Morton. What I mean by that is, I didn’t know you could be so nonchalant about doing something so incredible.

Like many, I found myself inspired not only by what he did, but how he did it. A sentiment that sits at the core of so much of the media documenting Lachlan’s varying projects is the sense of self-discovery and steadfast resolve to abstain from losing himself in what is often required of pro cyclists. Lachlan refused to sacrifice what makes him him. But he liked pushing himself for the sake of extracting a pure, best effort.

Perhaps the impact of his persona is best summed up by Lachlan’s wife. Through teary eyes about a different feat a few years ago, Rachel Morton said, “I know that riding is so much more to him than just performance and winning. Lach really just does this because he loves it so much. And what’s more beautiful than watching someone give absolutely everything, give all of themselves to something, to succeed on their own terms.”

There’s a true wealth of wisdom in that.

With the increasing professionalization of the gravel peloton, there seems to be a distinct loss of personality in the sport. While there’s been enough chewing of this fat, I think part of what made the discipline interesting was that its material conditions spotlit the individual. I think it’s fair to say a good portion of the competitive end of the field is there to make their career, not cultivate a culture or experience. While these events have always been competitions, there was a time when a careful balance was at least attempted. Somewhere between pushing one’s limits and maintaining a culture of participation (something Lachlan has vocally supported, despite a hectic crowded sprint finish in last year’s race).

Lachlan’s overarching purpose revolving around something bigger than results is a concept that isn’t just good for the sport, but the world at large. While that might be a hefty expectation to heap onto Lachlan’s shoulders, it’s one that has affected me deeply. I could’ve followed the relatively linear path many do with regard to cycling: only finding a sense of accomplishment and validation in physically determined, quantifiable feats. Instead, thanks to Lachlan and a few others, I’ve had a much better relationship with something that allows me to push physical limits, but also indulge in the infinitely multifaceted aspects for which cycling creates space. I’m still me, just refined by a more holistic purpose.

Now Lachlan has once again topped the mountain—not only with a 2024 Unbound win, but the fastest finishing time in the race’s history. That’s the proverbial Super Bowl of gravel racing won in historic fashion, the way only Lachlan could.

The lost and largely aimless kid I was could’ve done with a bit more Lachlan in their life. But even as a 28-year-old adult looking to have a healthier relationship with the world, my community, and this thing I love, Lachlan is an inspiration. For a more complete sense of self, a more holistic sense of competition, and a more sustainable definition of what it means to push myself.

Thanks, Lachlan.