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Cape Epic: Lachlan Morton's Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod Team

Lachlan Morton Cape Epic
The Lachlan bike looks great in its EF Education-Nippo colorway (Image credit: Max Sullivan )

After completing one of the most inspiring rides of the season with his Alt Tour, Lachlan Morton just wants to keep riding. The Australian road pro started his competitive cycling journey in mountain biking and, with many of Lachlan's Alt Tour events requiring mountain bikes and gravel bikes, it's a good thing he isn’t shy of venturing off-road. For this latest adventure, the EF Education-Nippo rider is in South Africa riding the Cape Epic.

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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

The Scalpel offers two bottles for hydration (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Upfront is Cannondale's own Lefty fork (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

A Fox Float handles the rear suspension (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Morton rides a medium frame (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

SRAM XX1 AXS groupset handles the drive (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

A 36t chainring is fitted (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Jet fuel chain matches the EF Education-Nippo team livery nicely (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

RockShox Reverb AXS allows the saddle to be dropped on descents (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Morton is running a Prologo Scratch seat (Image credit: Max Sullivan )

Morton’s choice of mountain bike is the latest-generation Cannondale Scalpel, finished in a splendid rendition of the EF Education-Nippo team livery.

As with most pro riders at this year’s Cape Epic, Morton’s Scalpel is built with the best of SRAM. That means an AXS Eagle XX1 wireless drivetrain. A brand matching RockShox Reverb AXS dropper seatpost is also present, showing the willingness of many contemporary pro riders to embrace the descending benefits of an adjustable seatpost. Perched at the top of Morton’s AXS dropper is a Prologo saddle.

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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

The center section of the bars has been taped for an additional hand position (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

This could prove to be a smart move when tackling the high-speed gravel road sections (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Togs thumb grips add extra support (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

The AXS lever for the dropper posts and grip shift controls the suspension lockout (Image credit: Max Sullivan )

Road tricks for the MTB 

Scrutinize this Scalpel’s handlebar and you’ll notice that Lachlan’s Cape Epic race bike has interestingly positioned grip tape. Showing his intent to put down a significant effort on flat sections of the Cape Epic, Morton has taped Prologo bar tape to grip positions either side of the stem.

The world’s most challenging mountain bike stage race includes many flat gravel road sections, where aero is critical.

As a deeply experienced gravel road rider, Morton knows the benefit of riding in a hybrid position, varying his grip from the handlebar ends, closer to its center, to reduce the frontal profile.

Although aero position tucking rules have become an issue in professional road riding, mountain biking allows greater independence.

Five-time Cape Epic champion, Karl Platt, would often rest his forearms on the handlebars during faster flat-road sections. This pseudo-TT racing position has an aero benefit, very much the opposite of traditional mountain bike riding postures, which are too upright for great aerodynamics when rolling along at higher speeds on level terrain.  

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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Morton is running Vittoria Mezcal tires in 2.35in (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

Its all about the details and that includes the valves (Image credit: Max Sullivan )
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Lachlan Morton Cape Epic

A 2.35-inch tire is fitted to the rear as well (Image credit: Max Sullivan )

Bigger tires are go - for stage racing pros 

Morton’s tire choice for the Cape Epic reflects a need for robust puncture proofing and adequate ride quality. His Scalpel is shod with Vittoria's Mezcal Graphene 2.0 tires.

Like many pro riders, Morton has opted to use a larger 2.35in casing, allowing him to run lower pressures and have better terrain compliance.

Although rolling speed makes a big difference at the Cape Epic, larger tires have an unquestionable comfort benefit. A mild tread pattern and greater width are very much on-trend in the pro ranks.

The Cape Epic is a week of tough riding, with the terrain and trail buzz compounding. Pro riders are willing to add a few more grams to their rotating bike mass and have the comfort of a larger casing tire rolling them along, lessening fatigue.

Lance Branquinho
Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born media professional who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his fascination with trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. Rides: Morewood Kwela Cotic Simple 26 Pyga 160mm aluminium prototype