Pro cyclist Lachlan Morton wasn’t officially in this year’s Tour de France, but he rode the route anyway, by himself — and beat everyone to the finish in Paris by five days.
After starting shortly behind the official group on June 26, he crossed the unofficial finish line at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday: 3,424 miles in 18 days, including ascents up some of France’s famously brutal mountains.
Morton rode around 200 miles each day, usually spending about 12 hours in the saddle before finding a place to camp for the night (or simply riding through the night).
“To go out and ride your bike really far one time is one thing, but then to sleep in a tent and wake up at 5 o’clock the next morning to do it all again and do that again 15 or 16 days, that’s a huge challenge,” he says, “and is every bit if not more difficult than I thought it would be.”
For comparison, you can cross the continental U.S. on a bike in just over 3,000 miles, and for most people, it can take at least two months.
Morton rode 230 miles on June 30. His own personal Tour de France was far from his first unassisted endurance trek.
Lucy Le Lievre/Rapha
The team Morton rides for, the U.S.-based EF Education-Nippo, called it the Alt Tour. While the EF squad riding in the official Tour de France has mechanics and spare bikes at the ready, hotels to sleep in, all their meals provided and daily massages, Morton was left to his own devices.
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A typical day on the Tour de France is about 100 miles. And in the official Tour, buses ferry riders from where one day’s stage ends and the next day’s stage begins. Morton rode those gaps himself, significantly adding to the total mileage.
There are two rest days on the Tour. Morton had none.
He carried all his clothes and gear on his bike, bought his own food and fixed his own flat tires.
Morton was left to his own devices for camping and buying food each day. He faced profound challenges: rainy days and nights, shortage of supplies and lots of pain.
Lucy Le Lievre/Rapha
There were profound moments, like having the road to himself, riding through a glorious sunrise in the Alps, when he “felt very lucky to be out there doing what I was doing.”
But Morton faced profound challenges as well: rainy days and nights, going to sleep hungry, running out of supplies. Lots of pain.
“I got a sore knee on the first day, which was a pretty significant problem and something that I didn’t have a lot of experience with,” he tells NPR. He had the idea to buy wider, longer pedals (he actually had to buy a whole bike from a supermarket just to get the pedals) that let his feet move around more and ride in his sandals.
“It turned out to be the perfect solution for my knee problem,” Morton says, but then it created another problem: “I got pretty significant blisters from the sandals.”