cycling

Lachlan Morton wins the 2024 Unbound Gravel

Our Aussie gravel star makes it fourth time lucky in Emporia

UNBOUND Gravel was the race that started it all for Lachlan Morton back in 2019 when it was still part of his “alternative calendar.”
It was the race that saw him shift focus from road to gravel and new pursuits, and it’s been the race that’s eluded him as well. No more.

Today, five years and one day later, Lachlan won UNBOUND with a time of 9:11:47 — the fastest time to date and over an hour faster than when he first rode it back in 2019. He’s our gravel champ. The people’s champ.

UNBOUND is a race in which every little detail counts — everything needs to go your way. Lachlan knows this all too well, as his races in Kansas have often finished in heartbreak. Mechanicals. Crashes. Close finishes. It felt as if UNBOUND was cursed. But today all of his training, all of his preparation, and all those close calls came together and he won cycling’s biggest gravel race.

“I feel pretty grateful to have had the ride I did,” said Lachlan. “In the finale, I thought to myself that no matter what pans out in this sprint I'm really happy with myself in the way that I executed the race, but also the way I prepared for the race. I did it in my own style and stayed true to the way I like to ride. I did a lot of adventure rides and enjoyed myself. I was training when I was on the bike, but then off the bike, that was where it ended and I was just in a very happy spot and found a really nice balance which is proving harder to do as it gets more competitive.”

The race started fast like it always does. Lachy was prepared for it, he knew it was coming with such a deep field. Lachy knew the all-new Rapha Blaero skin suit, POC’s new Procen air helmet and Rapha aero socks were all in order. As the field rolled out of Emporia, Lachlan could feel the tingle — he was on a good day.

Lachy attacked his group with 120 miles to go and rode solo to try to bridge to a small group of riders up the road. But a wrong turn saw him lose his lead and have to chase back on.

“I took it as a sign that I was supposed to go back to the bunch,” said Lachlan. “And to be honest, I don't know what I was doing trying to go solo so far to go. In some ways the way it turned out, I'm actually stoked that I went the wrong way there.”

From being ahead, to now having to chase, Lachy was able to close the gap. Then, with a hundred miles to go, Lachlan set off on another attack, this time followed by two other riders. He was a man on a mission.

The trio soon became a duo with Lachy and Chad working well on the front together. The duo extended their gap to over two minutes and the gap stayed there for the final few hours that the two spent together.

As the pair reached the outskirts of Emporia again, the watertower loomed large. The win was theirs for the taking. Chad dropped back and attacked, but the Aussie was able to calmly close the gap.

“It's hard when you swap off and work together with someone and then someone has to break the friendship,” said Lachlan recalling his old road racing days. “He did the first attack and I was actually happy about that because he knew then he had to stay on the front, he didn't try and bring me through. He knew he'd broken that pact and he was going to be stuck there. It was like a road finish. A lot of the big races I've won have been in these small groups after a hard day, a long day off the front or something like that. So I feel pretty comfortable in those those finishes.”

On the final hill, the two of them rode together. It would come down to the sprint. With a couple hundred yards to go, Lachy opened up a small gap on Chad and that was it. Lachy raised his hands. He’d won the race that started the alternative calendar journey five years ago. It was a long time coming.

“In the final few miles there, I was like, ‘alright, I need to win this. I won't forgive it myself if I let this one go,'” Lachlan said, chuckling. “For me to win a sprint, I have to play it really perfectly. I don't have a lot of watts to play with when it comes to the sprint. So, I was just pulling on all the sprint skills I learned when I was a young junior and that's how it played out and I rode a perfect sprint.”

“It really took me up until the last two weeks to come all the way back from doing The Divide. It was a long process of getting myself back up to speed and it was a lot harder than I thought. And to be able to come all the way back, and not just be competitive, but to win UNBOUND. It feels good.”

The win wasn’t just for him though. Thomas Hopper, his mechanic, has been with him every step of the way.

“To see Tom there right after the finish, he's put so much effort in these last few years and we've just slowly chipped away at it,” said Lachlan. “He's so committed to helping me. When the races go well or when they don't. And even in the lead up to this race I changed a lot of things last minute and I played around with setups and like it was a lot of work. But, he just takes it all in his stride. It was really nice to feel like I could pay him back with that win.”

Lachlan's been targeting this race for years. We know how much this win means for him. We are so happy for you, Lachy. Congrats.

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