There is something in the fact that cyclists have a fondness for motorsport.
A few years ago, six-time British Olympic track gold medalists Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny traded pedal power for horses, competing in Radicals and more.
Fast forward to 2021 and there is another rider who does the same: Blue Marble Radical Cup North America rider Alex Morton is a former national cyclocross champion who has also raced for his country.
But what makes his story different from that of Hoy and Kenny is that he joined motorsport at a much earlier stage in his life.
At 19, the Michigan native makes a new start in the car and hopes to launch a new racing career.
“I first moved to Europe at the age of 15 to race for the United States team,” says Morton, who started in motocross and track cycling before becoming a professional cyclist. of cyclocross. “For three years after that, we moved to the Netherlands to run there for a few months.”
Morton has represented the United States at three UCI world championships, twice in the junior category and once at the Under-23 level last year.
With such a promising junior career to build on, why has he gone from one set of pedals to another?
“I kind of got hooked on racing cars,” he says. “I just couldn’t feel on a bike what I could feel in the car. I have also had overuse injuries related to cycling over the years.
“That’s when I started to decide to make the transition completely to cars.”
The two activities overlapped for some time. Four years ago, Morton was introduced to motorsport by his parents, who own a garage on the M1 Concourse circuit in Michigan.
After learning the basics there, it was agreed that Morton would appear in the 2019 SCCA Formula Enterprises series.
At that time, Morton was still riding his bike competitively and successfully, winning the national victory and retaining his selection for the American team.
2020 saw Morton’s motorsport hobby take on a bigger role when he joined the U.S. Formula 4 Championship, while his cyclocross rides became less frequent.
A series of tough F4 races saw him part ways with his side midway through the campaign, but he was determined to pursue what had become his main goal.
The early end of the season gave time to figure out what to do next.
“I struggled to find a sponsor during the winter, but I had my first opportunity to test a Radical in March, Texas,” Morton recalls. “I adapted to the car very quickly. “
The Radical he drove was the 226-horsepower SR3XX: the latest iteration of the automaker’s best-selling model.
The tests allowed Morton to learn about the aero-focused super sports car that had previously only handled junior single-seaters where mechanical grip is king.
Satisfied with his impressions and excited by his discovery, Morton returned to Michigan full of ideas for his next career step in racing. Radical’s North American series was the obvious direction, and it didn’t take long to find a partner who could host a program.
“My father was in contact with Team Stradale before me! he explains. “We were pretty determined to want to race in the PRO 1500 class.
“I was able to do a test at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet the first week of April. I did three days and felt really welcome in the team.
Despite the immediate connection to Stradale, an intense but short pre-season schedule meant Morton wasn’t overflowing with confidence when he arrived at Barber for his sweeping debut from April 15-17.
Nonetheless, this weekend on the supporting bill IndyCar heralded a promising trio of top-five, as the second round at Road America ceded its first class victory to place it fourth in the PRO 1500 standings after six races.
“At Barber, we were happy to sit where we sat, with limited seating time,” he says.
“At Road America we had some setup issues, but we turned the tide and were able to pick up the pace from the middle of the weekend.”
Morton did not give up cycling although motorsport now occupies his competitive focus.
He’s still riding to maintain his fitness for the next few race weekends on physically demanding tracks like COTA and Road Atlanta.
The 40-minute Radical Cup North America races are similar in duration to cyclocross events, but the similarities end there. Continuous pedaling over varying terrain and occasional rides over obstacles make cyclocross physically stressful, while motorsport leads to higher mental strain and g-force pressure.
“Bikes, especially off-road equipment, require a lot of concentration,” Morton explains. “But it’s very dominant physically. I would say what’s difficult with a car is that in terms of concentration you are at maximum capacity with every lap.
“When you are hot and more advanced in the race, the physical aspect will affect your concentration. A car is not as physically demanding as a bicycle, but it responds to overall capacity simply because it requires a lot more mental focus.
Motorsport is better for Morton’s program, which is currently based on a four-year course at Michigan State University.
The second-year public relations student uses his summer vacation to focus on the Radical season: there is no more wasted time on winter cyclocross races.
Morton seems satisfied with his two big career changes in racing, from cycling to motorsport and then from open wheel to Radical. The next step is unknown.
Could Morton embark on a radical residency or use his current position as a stepping stone to other ventures? Both possibilities are interesting.
“I would love to race professionally in the future,” he said. “I think Radical is an incredible springboard for this.
“But I also like the car, so maybe I don’t want to leave it in the future. We’ll see where it takes me.
“I have raced all over the world on my bike before. If ever I had the opportunity to leave America, I would run 100% in Europe.
“I keep my options open for the future.”