Australian pro cyclist Lachlan Morton is riding the 539-mile Colorado Trail this week as a way to honor his late friend Suleiman “Sule” Kangangi, of Kenya, who tragically died in August while racing the Vermont Overland gravel race.
Morton set off on the famous route across the Colorado high country on Tuesday, September 6. He previously rode the trail back in 2019, and set out to set a Fastest Known Time on the route, but came up short, completing the trek in three days and 22 hours, about three hours short of the record. This year Morton is not aiming to break a record, and is instead concentrating on generated funds for Kangangi’s family through his ride.
Kangangi crashed during the Vermont Overland gravel race in August and died from his injuries. He was just 33 years old.
Kangangi was a member and the captain of Team Amani, a squad of off-road riders from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. He and Morton raced one another multiple times in recent years, and when news of Kangangi’s death was publicized, Morton posted a tribute on his Instagram account, stating: “Cycling lost one of its best yesterday. The world lost one of its best. I’m lost for words. We’re all going to miss you.”
“If I’m being honest, I’ve just tried to keep myself very busy which I know is not necessarily the right way to do it but I know I’m going to have a lot of time out there to think about him. No doubt, I’ll be thinking about him for sure,” Morton said Monday.
Morton also wants to use the ride to support Kangangi’s family by promoting a GoFundMe page. $70,000 has been raised so far and anyone who makes a donation for Morton’s ride will have the chance to go forward into a raffle to win a Cannondale bike. All of the donations go to Kangangi’s wife and children.
The Colorado Trail runs between Denver and Durango and covers 539 miles of trails with nearly 75,000 feet of elevation gain through the Rocky Mountains. Morton will take on the ride unsupported, just as he did in 2019 during his first attempt.
“I did it once before in 2019 and it really kicked my butt. It was by far the hardest ride I’d done. The severity of the route. It was very slow going. It took me four days and I was hiking for probably 12 hours. It’s very technical and unrelenting,” he said. “It was everything I could do to finish it. I’ve thought about it at least every week since then, how much it kicked my butt and how much I need to go back and try to make peace with the route.”
Morton generated international headlines in 2021 when he rode the entire distance of the Tour de France as a bikepacking challenge, pedaling the route during the day and camping at night. He even rode the transfer distances between the stages, and completed 3,400 miles of total distance.
The Colorado Trail is an altogether different challenge, due to the high altitude and grinding climbs.
“I think about the route in its entirety and it still scares me in a way, which is cool,” Morton said. “It’s good to have a challenge where it is very uncertain if you can achieve it. I know I’ve improved in all the areas that brought me undone last time.”