One of the great things about the 21 young men who attended the Montana Cross Camp was this year their variety of backgrounds outside cyclocross. Alex Morton of St. Clair, Michigan, is among these young men who have an interesting history in the sport at a young age. Morton began racing motocross at age three and then got some of his first cycling experience as a track racer. Although he does not do motocross anymore, the experience with cornering and bike handling still helps his cyclocross skills today.
Morton, who came up through the Cyclocross Network Racing program and raced with the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team last season, had an impressive 2016/17 campaign. He finished fifth—and came within a bad break of finishing on the podium—in the Junior 15-16 race at Hartford Nationals, and had several impressive results racing as a Cat 2 in regional races such as Jingle Cross and the Derby City Cup.
In the latest of our ever-growing series of Montana Cross Camp athlete interviews, Cyclocross Magazine sat down with Alex to talk about motocross, track racing and of course, wheelies.
2017 Montana Cross Camp Interview with Alex Morton
Cyclocross Magazine: This is your third go at this camp?
Alex Morton: Correct.
CXM: And how old are you?
AM: I’m 15.
CXM: So you came here when you were 13? How does it feel to be one of the vets at the camp now?
AM: It’s fun. You learn a little bit more every year.
CXM: What motivated you to come back?
AM: Probably the hard rides. You get to ride with some of the fastest kids in the country. It’s a good experience.
CXM: Is that to kick-start your cyclocross training?
AM: I think so, yeah. And even though it’s pretty similar stuff each year, you seem to learn something new every year.
CXM: Like what? What did you learn this year?
AM: Well, climbs are just as challenging every year.
CXM: They never get easier, you just get a little faster or a lot faster?
AM: I would hope, yeah.
CXM: You’ve been here two years before, but is there a highlight or big take away?
AM: Probably just getting to hang out with all my friends. There are very few times you get to just ride with everyone. At the races, you get to hang out and talk about your race, but you really don’t get to like hang out and stuff because you’ve got to prepared for your race.
CXM: One thing I noticed about you is whenever you could you were doing wheelies on our rides. How did you get those skills?
AM: Practice with my dad. I used to get really frustrated too because I couldn’t wheelie very well.
CXM: So your dad wheelies?
AM: Well, not that I’ve seen. He blames his joint problems from when he was a Euro pro back in the 90s. I just practiced it a bunch and once I got it, I’ve never stopped doing it. It’s like my favorite thing.
CXM: So your dad raced road in Europe?
AM: Yeah, he lived in France for, I’m not sure how long he was there, but he raced for a team and then he broke his back and I think after that he moved to triathlons. He went to the Ironman world championships and all that.
CXM: Did he expose you to road or triathlons before ’cross?
AM: I did motocross for seven years.
CXM: How old were you?
AM: I started when I was three.
AM: Yeah. I traveled all over the country and during that time I did a lot of pump track and stuff like that. Mountain biking with my mom. When I stopped motocross I immediately got into cycling. I was doing mountain bike races, just kind of kid races and stuff, and then when I was 10 I got into track and velodrome racing. I did that for a little bit and then at the same time I was doing road and ’cross. ’Cross has always been my favorite, but my dad likes road the best, so he always tries to push that. He knows ’cross is what I am dedicated to.
CXM: With the motocross background, there was no interest in BMX?
AM: Not really. I’m more of an off-road kind of guy.
CXM: You’re from St. Clair, Michigan? Where’s the closest track?
AM: Bloomer. Bloomer Park is like 45 minutes away from me. That was a good start. It was a pretty fun track. It is like 44 degrees and a really short track. It was really fun.
CXM: When I was a little kid I raced on the track, but they were all just handicap races. What races did you do at the velodrome?
AM: I think it was scratch races. When I stopped I had just started getting into madisons, and then there’s the points races and all that stuff too. And miss and out too.
CXM: There’s a madison for kids?
AM: Sometimes they would include you if there weren’t an even number of people, so if you got lucky then sometimes, but usually not.
CXM: Getting back to camp, how would you describe Geoff Proctor?
AM: Life changing.
AM: I think he’s a big motivator and he’s very knowledgeable. Every year I have taken a little bit out of it. The past couple of years I haven’t really done a lot of stuff other than riding, and this year the past eight or nine months I have done all the body weight and weight workouts and everything like that I took away from last year. This year I wasn’t sore at all. It was nice.
CXM: That must be confidence inspiring going into the season.
AM: Yeah, I try and listen to everything he says even though I’m not the best listening. But when he’s talking I try and give my full attention to him.
CXM: Do you have a coach?
CXM: Does your coach incorporate some of the drills we do here at camp?
AM: Yeah, he’s an amazing coach.
CXM: Who is your coach?
AM: Lucas Wall. I think he’s one of the only Level 1 cycling coaches in Michigan. I have improved a bunch in the last couple of years. He’s great with both road and cyclocross.
CXM: What’s your biggest goal for the cyclocross season?
AM: I really want to win Nationals. That’s my dream. I really want to go to Europe for Team USA, and I’d really like to go to the World Championships.
CXM: How did last year’s Nationals go?
AM: It was pretty good. I got the holeshot, which was pretty cool. I got to make a post about that because my mom got a pretty good picture. I was running about second most of the race and then right after Bonk Breaker hill, there was a little off-camber and I just slid out on that the last lap and I got passed back to fifth. But I was happy to get some hardware to take home.
CXM: You’ve been here three times, do you hope to come back again?
AM: I hope so, yeah. Hopefully a fourth next year.
CXM: Awesome. Thanks so much for your time.
AM: Thank you.
View more photos from Montana Cross Camp and Cyclocross Nationals and see all our coverage from the 2017 Montana Cross Camp.