Is this the toughtest mountain bike race on Earth? As the 4th edition of The Munga Mountain Bike race drew to a close, over 100 “Mungrals” were awarded their hand-made medals in recognition for completing their 1074km journey from Bloemfontein to Doolhof Wine Estate outside Wellington near Cape Town.
With 133 starters, the race was again a celebration of grit, tenacity and resilience for athletes ranging from pro MTB racers, corporate professionals as well as business owners from all walks of life. Three couples also accepted the challenge that mirrors life in so many ways.
At the sharp end of the race, the men’s race was decided in a new record time of 50 hours 30 mins when Dutchman Ramses Bekkenk beat out South African riders Heinrich Visser and Chris van Zyl. Near perfect weather conditions allowed all three these riders to beat the previous record set in 2017 by Marco Martins. Martins was in contention for most of the race, but succumbed to illness in Sutherland, about 800km into the race while lying in second place.
The ladies race was dominated by Janine Stewart, a Munga veteran, when she out-powered Elaine Beytel and Sarah van Heerden. This despite almost throwing in the towel a mere 200km into the race at after sustaining injuries during a fall. She decided to continue “to see how she feels” and only stopped again at the finish. Van Heerden, at age 55 completed her second Munga race proving that age is certainly not an obstacle in ultra-endurance racing.
Since the race’s inception, it has catered for Development Riders in equal measure allowing previously disadvantaged riders an opportunity to possibly change their lives. Sithembiso Masango recorded his 3rd consecutive win in this category. Proof of the importance of this category lies in the fact that his winnings over the previous two years have allowed him to buy a car and build his family a house.
The organisers were pleased to award 108 finisher’s medals, with the last rider crossing the line at 11:52 – only 8 minutes ahead of the cut-off in cold and wet weather conditions. Nina Long had the honour of closing the race and it was indeed a thrill to have the race winner who finished almost 70 hours ahead of her, hand her her finisher’s medal.
Munga entries for the 2019 race opened at the same time as the 2018 edition finished.
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