On Saturday 1 September at 13:00, Grant Lottering – survivor, international speaker and Laureus Sport for Good Ambassador – set off from the Col d’Aubisque in the Western Pyrenees on a grueling cycle challenge, reaching the ski station of Les Saisies in the Northern Alps 72 hours later.
Dubbed #pyrenees_alps18, this challenge was Lottering’s fifth and final Im’possible Tour. Taking on a challenge of this nature is nothing new to Lottering – since a horrific, near-fatal crash in the Italian Alps in July 2013, Lottering has repeatedly demonstrated perseverance in the face of adversity. In 2016, Lottering did what many considered impossible and set off on a nonstop ride through the French Alps – a distance of 962km which he completed in 46 hours of continuous riding, climbing some of the most brutal Alpine mountains in all of cycling folklore. He can now add traversing the entire Pyrenean mountain range to his list of achievements.
Already described as a ‘stunning’, ‘staggering’, and ‘mind-blowing’ accomplishment, Lottering arrived at the finish location of Les Saisies, one hours’ drive from Geneva, at 13:34 on 4 September, 72 hours and 34 minutes later.
Besides the obvious challenges of physical and mental endurance, embarking on this nonstop, three-day bike ride through France presented several other obstacles to Lottering and his two support teams (consisting of his partner, family, friends, and his photographer, who followed Lottering for the entire 72 hours, rotating on an eight-hourly schedule).
The route through the Pyrenees and southern Provence and up the Alps presented unexpected challenges for Lottering and his team, causing significant time delays. These included: road closures in Southern France and the Alps which required route deviations; getting lost in the middle of the night and cycling up the wrong mountains before having to make a U-turn; and rain at night in the Southern Alps, which made the descents treacherous, dangerous and slow. Further road closures also resulted in a longer-than-planned car transfer between the Pyrenees and Provence. All in all, Lottering and his support team lost close to nine hours as a result of these unexpected delays.
Nevertheless, Lottering was not deterred from his goal. In total, he rode 961km in 47 hours and 21 minutes and climbed 21,454m over 23 mountains, including the famous Tour de France giants of the Col du Tourmalet, Col de Vars, Col d’Izoard, Col du Lauteret, Col du Galibier, Col de Madeleine and more.
During the 72 hours, Lottering never actually slept, but ‘napped’ in his support team’s car when they stopped at pre-determined places and times. He napped five times over the three days of riding, totalling only three hours and 40 minutes of sleep.
The end of the tour saw Lottering exhausted but elated. Asked how he felt after his fantastic achievement, Lottering said, “I didn’t do it; we did it,” pointing to his support teams, “to complete this Im’possible Tour was incredibly important to me and failure simply was not an option,” he continued.
Asked how he managed to just keep going; Lottering replied: “The levels of pain I endured for long periods of time simply cannot be explained or expressed. At times, everything in me wanted to just stop and lie down. Mentally, I prepared more than ever, and that proved invaluable as I used my mental strength and memory of past adversities I have overcome to push through the pain and shift my focus. I have had so much adversity to overcome, so many setbacks the past few years, that succeeding this year was very, very personal for me.”
Lottering concludes: “Thank you very much to my sponsors VO Connect, Mercedes-Benz SA and Air Mauritius for continuing to support my efforts despite the setbacks and challenges of the past years. And to all the thousands of followers who sent comments, encouragement and messages during my attempt – thank you, you kept me going!”
Aside from completing the gruelling challenge, Lottering also managed to raise over R100,000 for Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. To date, Lottering’s annual Im’possible Tours have raised over R2 million for this worthy organisation that fosters a love for sport in disadvantaged communities.
Morné du Plessis, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation South Africa Chairman says: “We are proud to call Grant an ambassador and have him as part of the Laureus family. He has overcome so much adversity and gone on to use it to achieve what others would think could never be done. He lives and breathes the Laureus ethos, and I would like to thank him for once again using the Im’possible Tour to raise funds and awareness for Laureus around the world; we are truly grateful.”
Nadia Trimmel, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Southern Africa says: “Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a longstanding reputation for using the influence of sport in order to positively shape lives, and this is the case with the association with Grant Lottering’s Im’possible Tour. We would like to congratulate him on successfully completing the seemingly impossible task. He has proven that there is no insurmountable obstacle in life, and we are confident his incredible feat will inspire for years to come. Of course, someone of his resolute determination was only ‘Born to Run’, which is why he chose a Mercedes-Benz Vito to successfully accompany him on his tour.”
Carla da Silva, Air Mauritius Regional General Manager, Southern Africa and Latin America says: “Air Mauritius South Africa appointed Grant Lottering as our Sports Ambassador as his dream fulfilment and passion for Charity resonates with the Air Mauritius brand. Aviation makes dreams come true and impacting communities positively is very much part of our values. Grant is a sportsman that encompasses passion, perseverance, determination and hard work.”
In completing the 2018 Im’Possible Tour, Lottering has once again proved that with passion and purpose, nothing is impossible or beyond his reach… or anyone else’s.