Rea­sons, Rac­ing And Records

Bicycling (South Africa) - - INSIDE - BY ERIK VERMEULEN

It’s a tour, but not the Tour De France. It’s epic… but not the Cape Epic. It’s 1 000km of hard rid­ing from Bloem­fontein to Welling­ton, with five days to fin­ish and no obli­ga­tion to eat or sleep. It’s The Munga, and this is what it looks like: the grit­ti­est pics of some of the tough­est cy­clists in the world.

It’s billed as the tough­est race on earth; and at 1 000km, The Munga MTB is fast be­com­ing the bucket-list event of the ul­tra-en­durance world. The race’s or­gan­iser and pho­tog­ra­pher - who has been there for all three of the events since the race’s in­cep­tion – cap­tures the mood and ex­cite­ment from the 2017 event.


For the first time we had a field of over 100 en­trants, with in­ter­na­tional rid­ers from Por­tu­gal, France, Mau­ri­tius, Namibia and the UK. Last year we had a rider from New Zealand, who was com­pletely flab­ber­gasted that we ac­tu­ally farm sheep in the des­o­late and arid Ka­roo! The start is al­ways filled with ten­sion and ap­pre­hen­sion – whether you’re in it to win it, or for your own rea­sons of self­dis­cov­ery and test­ing your met­tle. That’s what makes The Munga such a unique event; ev­ery rider comes to the race for their own rea­sons – and I’ve seen those rea­sons change over the course of the race, and even over the course of an af­ter­noon.


We get more and more rid­ers ask­ing us for per­mis­sion to use our logo. We don’t mind, be­cause it al­lows each rider to ex­press their own phi­los­o­phy and rea­son for be­com­ing ‘ Mun­grels’. Rid­ers are build­ing their own lex­i­con as part of the his­tory of the race.


After a sunny start, in­side the first hour the weather turned, and rid­ers raced through gusty winds and dust storms – elic­it­ing fears for a re­peat of 2016, when an in­ces­sant head­wind dec­i­mated the field be­fore wa­ter­point 1. But in 2017, the wind soon abated.


The Munga is billed as a self- sup­ported ride; but of course, as or­gan­is­ers we do pro­vide five race vil­lages and 10 wa­ter points stocked with snacks, Pow­erBar prod­ucts, and wa­ter.

Rid­ers can also make use of any in­fra­struc­ture they come across on the route. Like the Ste­un­mekaar, about 100km into the race – this lit­tle shop, with its cool ce­ment porch, is a firm favourite; and the ladies who run it look for­ward to the stam­pede of thirsty rid­ers smash­ing their sup­ply of Clover Su­per M choco­late milk.


Most of the rid­ers will see less than half of the route in day­light, miss­ing out on an amaz­ing part of South Africa. Our rea­sons for the rout­ing is not sim­ply be­cause it’s re­mote, but be­cause the Ka­roo seems to be largely over­looked by trav­ellers. There are gems here. The peo­ple. The farms. The ar­chi­tec­ture and bridges. It awak­ens some­thing in your soul that – de­spite the des­o­la­tion – leaves your soul filled.

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