Rebecca Adlington takes part in 'Bike for Africa' charity

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Rebecca Adlington will put thoughts about her future on hold for a few weeks as she attempts one of the "toughest" challenges of her life.

Great Britain's most successful swimmer, with two Olympic golds and two bronzes, is swapping the pool for pedals, joining fellow London Olympians Joanne Jackson and Ross Davenport in a bid to cycle 280 miles across Zambia.external-link

"Cycling for four days in 40 degree heat is going to be a huge ask," admitted Adlington, 23. "It's like nothing we have ever done before."

The charity campaign is the brain-child of former GB swimmer turned Sport in Actionexternal-link ambassador Melanie Marshall, who is hoping to use the profile of this summer's Olympics to raise awareness of some of the issues which face the Zambian people.

Marshall told BBC Sport: "The average age is under 50 and there are a lot of children walking around the streets without parents because they have died from serious diseases like AIDS and HIV.

"There's a huge positive with Africa though in that sport is used as a way to educate and communicate. In that way we hope to get messages across to the new generation.

"We hope they can make a great start, rather than having to deal with so many travesties."

Adlington added: "We've all wanted to do more charity work over the last four years but it's been so tough when you're in heavy training and focusing on the Olympics.

"We jumped onto this because it was such a great opportunity."

Jackson, who won 400m freestyle bronze at the Beijing Olympics, admits the charity mission is a huge step into the unknown for her.

"We're going to be living in the villages with the families and I just don't know what to expect," said Jackson.

"It's not as though we're going to be biking all day and staying in a luxury hotel in the night, we're actually not going to be showering for four days!"

The three-time Olympian continued: "I have swum for 15 to 16 years and I'm looking forward to giving something back by teaching children to swim in the final few days."

Although all elite athletes, Davenport confesses the swimmers have found training far from straight forward.

"I have actually only done one cycle as I injured my knee after that so I'm on a bit of a rest period - which I like to call tapering before i go for the main event," said the former Commonwealth champion.

"We have been pampered as elite sports people for so long, we get the perks and travel around the world, stay in the best hotels and eat nice food so now we're going to somewhere in Africa which is not as privileged.

"Hopefully we can raise as much money as possible, put smiles on people's faces and try to change a bit of the culture of the place."

Adlington, who has confessed to colliding with a few car wing-mirrors during her training runs, says she is enjoying the prospect of completing the task as a group.

"We're used to being in a lane with just yourself and this time we'll be helping each other," said the Mansfield-based swimmer.

"If there's a hill someone can gently give you a push and it'll be the massive thing over the four days to encourage each other to make it to the end."