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12 Mar, 2015

Alp assault after death

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Grant Lottering will take on yet another challenge this year. He will attempt to ride over 400 kilometres of gruelling Alpine road in 24 hours for charity. Raymond Travers caught up to him in Randburg and asked him about this amazing project.

With an ascent of over 10 000 metres of climbing, a whopping 416 kilometres long of which 198 kilometres are pure climbs, a required average speed of 20 kilometres per hour and the goal of raising R1 000 per kilometre, Grant Lottering’s latest conquest is all about big numbers.

He calls it the Im-Possible Tour Two, and simply put, it is titled “taking a second chance at life to the limits and beyond”.

“Basically I want to use my ability of riding a bike that God has given me to raise money and to make a difference,” Grant explained. “And while I’m doing this ride, we’ll be documenting the journey on camera, so I actually want to be the first South African guy to make professional, audio visual documentaries and then share them with others and use them to raise funds for charity. That is my vision and that is basically the plan. And Im-Possible is the way to do it.”

This incredible vision has evolved into what it is after Grant’s horrific accident while attempting to finish the Leggendaria Charly Gaul in Trento, Italy in 2013. The accident left him with massive injuries all over his body and he actually died on the side of the road while paramedics and on-scene emergency personnel tended to him. Fortunately they managed to bring him back to life and he was airlifted to the nearest hospital.

Later, Grant’s Italian doctors told him via interpreters he’d probably never ride his bike again.

“They told me my shoulder was totally crushed and that it basically sits under my armpit,” he explained. “So they said to me that I would never be able to ride a bike as I would never have enough movement in my shoulders to control a bike and that I wouldn’t be able to reach the handlebars.”

Understandably, this was very disappointing for Grant, who grew up cycling and even received Springbok colours for the sport during the 1980s. He rode for the Topsport Panasonic Pro Team with the likes of Robbie MacIntosh and Rapport Fietstoer winner Lourens Smit.

“I was really upset. I was not in a good space. My injuries were incredible. The pain that I had in hospital was just indescribable. Especially when they took me off morphine. In high care, they kept on changing my beds in an attempt to try and get me comfortable.

“But it was Hell. It was absolute Hell. I remember my brother Glen was there and I said to him ‘I’m not riding a bike again’ and he replied ‘don’t make that decision just yet’. About a week later, while lying there in the middle of the night I just had this image of a blank book. No writing in it. And I realised that I’ve been given a second chance.

“I could write a new story in this book. I could actually do something with this. And I actually made notes, I still have those notes to this day, and I wrote down ‘I will come back and do this within a year’. And there I decided. It wasn’t because they said I can’t ride or anything, but because I realised that I’ve got an opportunity to do something with it.

“I just decided that I’m going to do whatever I can to get back on the bike so that’s where the first sort of like thought came along,” Grant explained.

During that time, Grant also thought what the sport has meant to him over the years.

“At school, I was rubbish at school sports like rugby, cricket and tennis. Then I saw the Il Campioni in Randburg with the likes of Ertjies Bezuidenhout riding and racing and I decided I was going to be a cyclist. So I thought a lot about how it changed my life.

“I got my Springbok colours for cycling when I was in matric and also rode the Rapport Tour that year. I was fortunate enough to go and race overseas and I had amazing experiences. So I decided to hang on to the sport and also to not just do it to prove that I can,” explained Grant.

So he did a bit of research on the Laureus Foundation which helps kids in orphanages and charities. Using sport, they help them find meaning in life.

“No matter what you’ve gone through, don’t believe what people tell you. Believe what you believe you are capable of,” said Grant.

And that is how the idea for the first Im-Possible Tour began. But the hardest part for Grant was yet to come. He had to prepare and he only had four months from February 2014 (when he started training) until he had to leave for Europe in July.

“Those first rides were like half hour rides. I would drive out to the Cradle, park at Riverstone Lodge and only ride to the T-junction. I couldn’t pick up speed because I was nervous but I always told myself ‘you’re going to do this thing’, I visualised actually doing it,” Grant said.

But there were other powers willing him on as he wasn’t “just doing this for me” but that corporate South Africa had donated R150 000 and that he had already planned to make the video of his incredible journey (you can see this on YouTube).

Motivation also came from the Laureus Foundation.

“They have got this program called Yes, where they identify young leaders in orphanages and charities and they put them through education, where they are trained to be sport physiotherapists and other directions,” he said, “so I knew that my efforts will have a marked impact on people’s lives.”

Which resulted in an amazing feat where he didn’t just finish the 142 kilometre Leggendaria Charly Gaul exactly a year after his accident that nearly ended his life, but he also finished the even longer 174 kilometre La Marmotte event for amateur cyclists which includes an assault on the famous Tour de France Alpe d’Huez ascent.

Grant chose the name Im-Possible Tour by adapting an Audrey Hepburn quote and adopting the title “from death to the top of the Alps in one year”.

After finishing the ride, Grant wanted to do more, so immediately started planning the second installment of the Im-Possible Tour. And he plans to raise even more money during this conquest.

“I’ve worked out a route with a company called AlpCycles.com, which was one of my supporters for the first Im-Possible Tour, and we spent a lot of time with GPSs and Google Earth. We’ve plotted the ride from Morzine-Avoriaz, which is a ski resort about 50 kilometres from Geneva, Switzerland through the northern Alpine route and ending at the top of the famed Alpe d’Huez.

“So it is 416 kilometres long and I aim to do it in 24 hours, starting at 19:00, but the thing is, I will be climbing 10 Alps! I’ll be climbing 10 000 metres in one day, so it is going to be quite a challenge,” he explained.

The second Im-Possible Tour will take place this August and Grant is already conceptualising the third Im-Possible Tour for 2016, which he hopes to include others.

Meanwhile Grant has started his intensive training for Europe this August where he really will be “taking a second chance at life to the limit and beyond”.

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |

Editor