This is No Race

Cycling the Mountains of Lesotho

What has become known as a mentally, physically and emotionally challenging journey for every cyclist brave enough to sign up, the High Altitude Cycle covers 230 kilometres over three days. With the focus more on completing the challenge at your own pace and enjoying the ride, organisers aim to get everybody who crosses the starting line to cross the finish line, in one piece.

What makes this cycle challenge unique is the fact that it takes place at extremely high altitudes, with the highest point above sea level on route being 11 000 feet, effecting not only performance levels due to lack of oxygen but also recovery time and dehydration rates. Extremely steep gradients, poor road conditions and constant temperature variations also take their toll on body and mind, but the awe-inspiring beauty of the Lesotho landscape rewards perseverance time and time again!

The aim is to get everybody who crosses the starting line to cross the finish line, in one piece.

This year’s third epic challenge across the mountainous landscape of Lesotho was a great success. The slightly different route not only presented the team with a whole new set of challenges, but also offered even more breathtaking scenery than ever before.

Completing this epic challenge is a great achievement for every cyclist. An achievement that would not be possible without the unfailing support offered by the phenomenal backup team focused on making sure that a constant supply of drinks, food, snacks, extra kit, sun screen, medical supplies, moral support and spare parts is available at all times. All the brave cyclists who signed up for the challenge managed not only to complete the epic three day journey in great spirits, but also to surpass the set target of funds raised. Their commitment and passion makes The Lesotho High Altitude Cycle Challenge an incredible event.

Benefitting Charities
This year’s challenged was focused on raising money for children with disabilities. A total of R1 280 700 was raised! The benefitting charities were the Smile Foundation who received R351 000, the 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust received R549 000 (making two cochlear implant surgeries possible) and The Sunshine Association received R380 700.

Q&A with High Altitude Cyclist and CEO of Trollope Mining, Guy Hopkins

What was the inspiration for the birth of the Lesotho High Altitude Challenge?
A few years ago I had a contract up in the area and always wondered if anyone has attempted to cycle the route. We decided late one night in our pub that we have to give it a go, and the only way to prevent us pulling out was to nominate a charity, which we duly did.

What makes this cycle challenge unlike any other?
The challenge is extreme, cycling at an average altitude of 9000 metres, and peaking at just under 11000. There is quite a loss in one’s power ability when riding at these high altitudes and it can seriously affect you. One has the tendency not to be hungry and thirsty, but you have to force yourself to eat. The grades are also very steep up to 24% on day one, with a total ascent at 2800 metres!

How has the challenge gained momentum and grown in popularity?
The ride has grown through word of mouth, but at this stage we, as Trollope Mining, fund the ride completely, as it is done for charity. There is a strong possibility that it could be changing in the future as more and more people want to do it.

How do you prepare mentally and physically for a race of this nature?
Preparation is done for endurance riding with lots of drinking. It’s not so much about the kilometres but rather your time in the saddle.

Can you briefly describe a personal race day highlight for you?
I’m an adrenalin junkie when it comes to downhills, so the most fun for me would have to be on Day 2 where there is a 15 kilometre downhill from the escarpment down into the valley. The best part of the challenge is that the organisation and planning works like clockwork, the food is generally brilliant, the beers cold and the scenery is absolutely spectacular.

What is the most intimidating aspect of the race?
The most intimidating section of the ride is Moteng Pass - it is about 12 kilometres long and 1000 metres in vertical ascent. Although it is tar, the max gradient is 24%.

DID YOU KNOW?

• Performance at 10 000 feet above sea level is 20 – 30% less.
• Recovery time is 4 – 6 times longer where air pressure is low.
• Dehydration rate increases with altitude.
• Appetite decreases with altitude. You only have a two hour fuel tank, so you have to make sure it’s full all the time.