15 Jun, 2015

Up into the Alps again

Grant Lottering averages around 27 kilometres per hour during his long training rides in the Cradle. Photograph by Raymond Travers

With the ultimate aim of raising R1000 per kilometre for the Laureus Youth Empowerment Through Sport Programme, Grant Lottering aims to conquer 414 kilometres of Alpine road this August as part of his “Taking a Second Chance at Life to the Limit and Beyond” Im’possible Tour. But how do you train for an ultra-endurance effort of this magnitude?

So how does an 11-hour, 290-kilometre ride with 3 886 metres ascent grab you? If that doesn’t impress you, perhaps a 14-hour, 355-kilometre ride with 4 153 metres ascent will? These were both straight forward training rides for Grant Lottering’s next Alpine conquest, a 414 kilometre 24-hour non-stop endurance ride.

“By doing these long rides,” said Grant, “I’m building my confidence. I think quite often we tend to stay with what we are comfortable with. And we tend to think that we can only ride for four hours. Then one day, we ride for five hours and we think that wasn’t so bad. But then we look at six hours, and then eight hours, and so we build our time in the saddle.”

With most of the support partners, sponsors and logistics already in place for the 2015 Im’possible Tour, Grant needs to be 100% sure that he can actually pull off the ride.

“It is definitely about getting that mental confidence that you can actually do it,” he commented. “If I don’t, there is going to be a serious problem because everyone is already involved. Its pressure, sure, but the pressure gets so much less when you know you can do it. And that is why I’ve been ramping up the hours.”

Because of his life as a Springbok and former professional cyclist with teams like the Topsport Panasonic Pro Team, Grant, who celebrates his 47th birthday on 7 June, knows the importance of recovery during a training programme.

“The difference for me doing this Im’possible Tour is that it is a solo, individual thing,” he explained, “it is not a race against other people, so I don’t have to train as if I’m going to race. I must be able to ride for 24 hours and I must be able to climb 10 000 metres in that time. That’s it.”

And because Grant works, he has to do all this training in his spare time.

“For me, it’s really about balancing the quantity with the quality. I alternate my weekends doing these things but making sure that I get plenty of rest in between and I include ‘coffee rides’ with my friends because mental rest is also important,” he explained.

When it comes to the planned long rides, Grant has to do them solo as “nobody else rides that far at the moment”. A typical 16 hour training ride for Grant will start off at 04:00 in the morning and he will ride out to the Cradle from his home in Randburg. He will then drop off his winter clothes and food at one of the lodges and then ride the first three hours with friends.

“From then on, I’m on my own for the next 12 hours,” he explained. “Then later in the afternoon, at around 17:00, another of my friends will join me because I need to ride until 19:00. So it’s 04:00 until 19:00. I start in the dark and I finish in the dark.”

As can be expected from someone of Grant’s cycling experience, he isn’t only training on the bike on the road.

“During the week it is difficult [to go out onto the road for long rides] because I work, so I have only got a couple of hours so this is where I get the quality time. I get home and go out onto the road [for a short ride], then I come home and get onto the Watt Bike,” he said.

Grant uses the Watt Bike to really push the power.

“They call it muscle tension. Big gears and low cadence. It’s almost like riding into the wind, focussing on those core muscle groups while grinding those big gears and building your lactate thresh-hold,” he explained. “And because you can programme the Watt Bike, I can for example do one hour where I ride for 10 minutes at 300 watts and then drop for five minutes and repeat the process.”

Grant also does other exercises, paying particular attention to his core muscle group “because this is so important for climbing”. Grant will be climbing for 194 kilometres in one day, so he is also on a strict diet which will help with his power to weight ratio.

“I’m still recovering, I am scheduled to undergo surgery on my shoulder when I get back from Europe, and so I’ve got exercises that my physio has given me. So for core training I’m doing a lot of planking and I’ve also got elastic bands which I use for the shoulders.”

And like any pro-athlete will say, Grant does a lot of stretching.

“And that is it,” Grant smiles, “I try and keep it simple. I’m still a bit old school and I like to keep things relatively, you know, non-scientific. I don’t really download all my graphs and analyse them. My Garmin is useful as I can see where my heart rate and cadence are.”

Grant says that to attempt something like the Im’possible Tour, you would need to know your body very well.

“When doing these 13 or 14 hour rides, there are times when I just want to get off the bike. After about four hours, you go through a dip when your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat. But then you ride through it. Then after about seven hours, it happens again but again you must just ride through it. You’ve just got to manage it,” he said.

Grant will take on his second Im’possible Tour on either 3, 4 or 5 August (depending on weather conditions). The route will take him over eight alpine mountains with a total ascent of 10 000 metres. The ride finishes at the Les Saisies Ski Resort, which is situated at an altitude of 1 657 metres.

Grant’s amazing story began on an Italian mountainside on 21 July 2013 after he crashed during the 140 kilometre Leggendaria Charly Gaul. By the time rescue teams reached him, Grant’s heart had already stopped beating and he was unconscious with multiple injuries. These included collapsed lungs, 12 rib fractures, fractures to his lumber and cervical spine, a crushed shoulder, a fractured scapula, ruptured arteries in his neck and arm and various other injuries.

While lying on his hospital bed in Santa Chiara Emergency Hospital, he decided to go back and finish the race, which he did in 2014. Defying his medical prognosis which said he’d never ride a bicycle again, he not only finished the Leggendaria Charly Gaul but also the even-longer 174 kilometre La Marmotte as part of his first Im’possible Tour.

You can support Grant and his quest to raise R1000 per kilometre by going to and contributing to this worthy cause. All donations will go to the Laureus Youth Empowerment Through Sport Programme which identifies and trains young leaders, selected from a wide base of sport for social change programmes across South Africa, to use the power of sport to successfully transform their communities.

For more information, or to book Grant as an inspirational speaker, visit

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |