Australia embarks on 1,063 kilometer journey to Ukraine border for war refugees

His goal on Saturday is a little more modest: to raise $50,000 for Ukrainian refugees.

“I’m just trying to do the only thing I know how to do and engage the cycling community to help me.”

Lachlan Morton

“I am not too political a person. I am not an expert in any of this,” he said. “I’m just trying to do the only thing I know how to do and get the cycling community to help me. My idea is to underline the fact that war is not a distant problem. Conflicts are a bike ride away anywhere in the world. That’s the intention behind it all, and to try to raise as much money as possible to help people who have been displaced.

Morton’s often daring runs are rare in cycling for the simple fact that his pro team, led by former US rider Jonathan Vaughters, is genuinely supportive of the effort. Many other teams manage riders with strict training plans designed to deliver them at their peak at the most important races on the calendar.

Lachlan Morton rode solo for 19 days on his Tour de France odyssey. Credit:PA

In fact, the team’s lead sponsor, EF Education First, along with bike sponsor Cannondale and apparel sponsor Rapha, have committed $100,000 to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine crisis relief fund. The money will be used to provide the refugees with food, shelter, clean water and healthcare, as well as access to education and other forms of economic assistance.

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There are no major bicycle races in Russia, unlike sports like tennis or football, but the professional team Gazprom-RusVelo has been banned from competition by the International Cycling Union (UCI). The team, which has nine Russian riders, is sponsored by PJSC Gazprom, a multinational energy company linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Several of this team’s sponsors, including bicycle manufacturer Look, canceled their partnerships after the invasion.

“The UCI calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and strongly condemns Russia’s violation of international law,” governing body president David Lappartient said in a statement late last month. “Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian cycling community. No UCI event is scheduled in Russia or Belarus in 2022.”

Still, dozens of professional riders linked to Russia and Ukraine compete in the WorldTour. One of them, Pavel Sivakov, who competes for Ineos Grenadiers, changed his nationality from Russian to French after the invasion – a decision that took effect immediately as far as bike racing is concerned. Sivakov was born in Italy and raised in France by Russian parents.

“I am totally against this war and all my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine,” Sivakov said in a statement. “Like most people around the world right now, I hope for peace and a speedy end to the suffering in Ukraine.”

Then there’s Padun, a former Ukrainian national time trial champion, who inspired Morton’s charity race this weekend. He was born in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which has long been an epicenter of pro-Russian separatists, and still has family and friends living in the war-torn country.

“Honestly, I don’t know what people should do. I don’t know what I can do personally,” Padun said. “It’s hard to fully concentrate because you know there’s always a war going on in your country. What the Ukrainian people need is for the war to stop. But what Lachlan is doing is good. The more people talking about it, the better. It’s great that he also raises money for Ukrainian refugees.