Words by Sophie Smith | Photo by SWpix.com
The same day Matej Mohoric put his body on the line to win professional cycling’s longest one-day race on a dropper seat post tech nerds geeked out over, another man set out to ride more than three times the distance to a place far more treacherous than the Via Roma.
Mohoric spent just shy of six-and-a-half hours in the saddle to win Milan-San Remo on Saturday, riding descents at breakneck speed to stun the favourites, as Lachlan Morton left Munich to cycle 1063km in one push to the western border of the war-torn Ukraine.
Morton made it to the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing on Monday, acutely aware of people on the other side who have been displaced since Russia invaded.
The 30-year-old began his odyssey with the aim of raising US$50,000 for GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.
In a video posted to social media at the border Morton appeared cold and weary as he, filming in the dark, used his thumb to dry his nose, which was running.
In the 42-hours it took him to cycle from Germany, northeast across Czechia to Poland and the border Morton, according to his team, raised $US215,000 – more than four times the amount he initially aimed to. Sponsors of his EF Education-EasyPost team, including EF, Rapha and Cannondale, chipped in an additional $US100,000.
In comparison, Mohoric won €20,000 ($22,000) after becoming the first Slovenian to win Milan-San Remo.
Morton appeared only to stop for food and drinks – pizza, hot chips and black coffee if you go on pictures – as he pedaled during the day and through freezing conditions in the dead of night.
His ride wasn’t broadcast from start to finish like La Primavera was, but his trade team posted regular updates on social media.
With 100km to go Morton was 38 hours into his ride and it was -5 degrees Celsius.
With 35km remaining he and another rider had only their bike lights and that of presumably a support vehicle recording video to illuminate the way.
Morton stood on the roadside in front of a blue, white and red sign, flashing lights illuminating his face with a border checkpoint and streetlights in the distance.
His voice was gruff from fatigue as he surmised his journey in a short 53-second clip, thanking those who supported him and made it a “very special day”.
“This marks the end of a chosen hardship for me but it’s symbolic of a hardship that’s being enforced on a whole bunch of people just on the other side of this border,” Morton said.
“I’m glad the cycling community could get together and help support those people.”
Morton was in Spain for the Gran Camino in February when he heard about the Russian invasion, sitting at breakfast next to teammate Mark Padun, who is from the Ukraine.
As EF Education – EasyPost detailed in a statement, Padun had friends and family who were now living in a war zone and that hit home for Morton. He opened Google Maps and the idea came to fruition from there.
“I kept thinking, wow, I could actually do that in one ride,” he said at the time. “So that was my idea. I’m not an overly political person. I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m just trying to do the one thing I know how to do and engage the bike-riding community to help. My idea is to highlight the fact that war is not a far-off problem. Conflicts are a bike ride away, all over the world. That’s the intention behind it, and to try and raise as much money as we can to help out people who have been displaced.”
Hours after finishing his ride EF Education-EasyPost posted to social media photos of Morton out on a spin with a group of Ukrainian teenagers, who have been forced to leave their homes, some of them alone, and are being hosted by the Polish Cycling Federation.