Sleepless in the saddle: Is ultra-racing taking sleep deprivation to dangerous levels?

As ultra-racing’s popularity grows, so do the risks some competitors are willing to take. Has the situation gone too far?

Lachlan Morton on GBDuro descent
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In late summer, Lachlan Morton, EF Education-EasyPost’s road racer turned ultra-endurance rider, was asleep beneath the star-filled skies of rural Colorado, but he was also winning. His nap was happening during this year’s Tour Divide, a 4,298km epic ride from Banff, Canada, to the Mexican border in New Mexico, USA.  

Unlike other riders in the ultra-race, or unlike Morton before, the 31-year-old made a point of stopping every night to sleep, spending six or seven hours off the bike a day. His sleeping proved key to victory as he completed the route in 12 days, 12 hours and 21 minutes – a frankly ludicrous pace. Sleep, sleep deprivation, and suffering is a big topic in the world of ultra-cycling. The rewards can be records, success and acclaim, but the risks are accident, injury or worse. Should one push through, forge on, or rest often?

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Adam Becket
News editor

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s news editor – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing. He's usually out and about on the roads of Bristol and its surrounds. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.