Grant Lottering will set out to conquer his fourth Im’possible Tour as he attempts to complete the 174km La Marmotte Granfondo route 10 times, starting in France on Sunday.
The 1 800km journey in the Alps will feature 40 mountain climbs, totalling 44 700m of vertical ascent – the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest five times.
The 49-year-old South African plans to complete mission in 96 hours. To do this, he and a support team worked out a strict schedule, said his media manager Lesley O’Connor.
She said the schedule would allow for a number of controlled stops for eating, changing clothes and getting lights to navigate in the dark, as well as brief snippets of rest.
Over the course of the ride, the former top cyclist will have to maintain a pace of about 20km per hour with roughly six hours of sleep. This gives rise to his greatest challenge – fatigue.
“If you’re tired you don’t think straight and if you’re overtired, even less,” said O’Connor.
“Grant experienced moments where he lost touch with reality and tuned out during his Im’possible Tour last year.
“For example, he would freewheel down a very steep, fast descent and once he got down to level road again and started pedalling, he’d have no recollection of the descent.
“There comes a point when you simply have to sleep.”
A television crew and two support vehicles will accompany Lottering and a team of nine support crew will be on hand, including his brother Glen.
“The support team goes through an emotional roller-coaster in their own way but it is an honour to support Grant and I feel immensely proud of what he has achieved to date,” said Glen.
The first Im’possible Tour took place in Italy in 2014 and saw Lottering return to complete the Leggendaria Charly Gaul – the race that almost claimed his life a year earlier when he crashed into a rock embankment.
The list of injuries was extensive and doctors considered them too severe for him to cycle again.
“What I do now is my way of giving back to a sport that has changed my life,” said Lottering.
In his second tour, he became the first South African to complete a solo, non-stop cycle through the French Alps in less than 24 hours. He completed the 418km with 9 864m of climbing in 19:30.
Last year’s tour doubled that and he completed 926km with 19 840m of ascent over 20 mountain passes in 46:38.
Lottering said he used the Im’possible Tours to show exactly what the human spirit could overcome.
“Sport can make a difference in everyone’s lives at all levels. It can give purpose and direction.
“It certainly did for me following my near-fatal accident in July 2013, when I was faced with the real prospect of not being able to ride a bicycle again.”