The Munga is SA's deepest cycling pain cave

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The Munga is not your average Karoo gravel bike ride (Photo: Erik Vermeulen)
The Munga is not your average Karoo gravel bike ride (Photo: Erik Vermeulen)

The first week of December will see 170 riders race the 1124km between Bloemfontein and Wellington , across some of South Africa’s harshest terrain.

The Munga is a non-stop semi-supported mountain bike race through the Karoo. Riders have 120 hours, starting at noon on 1 December, to reach the finish.

Kevin Benkenstein is one of South Africa’s best gravel racers and has channelled this talent into an incredible finishing record at the Munga. He has finished in the top five each time in the last five years, including victory in 2019 and second place in 2020.

Ride24 sat down with Benkenstein ahead of his sixth attempt, to chat about what keeps bringing him back to the Munga. And the prospect of racing against a powerful field, this year.

You have an incredible record at the Munga, having finished in each of the top five spots over your five rides, and often say never again, yet come November you sign up. What keeps bringing you back?

It is a few different things, I think. 

The Karoo is a beautiful place to ride, and I love being there, I really enjoy the calm that I feel when I am out there alone giving it my all and getting to take in the wonders that it offers. 

The competitive side of me does enjoy the racing too. But if I didn’t get more out of it than a performance, I wouldn’t be coming back for a sixth ride. Thankfully my sponsor Almar Containers were happy to support another dash across the country.

This year will see a strong field start in Bloemfontein, who do you reckon are the riders to watch out for?

There are the obvious ones; Hansie Joubert (2020 winner), Marco Martins (2018 Winner), andThinus Redelinghuys (joint 2019 winner).

Lachlan Morton, Cory Wallace and Chris van Zyl, but there are other standout new names like Wade Harris, Braam Wannenburg and Jaco Ferreira and other returning riders like Brian Brummer and Piet Laubscher. 

Munga is a legs and head lottery. Many others could come to the fore, but that’s the group I will be keeping my eye on from the start.

What do you think will be necessary from the winner in order to emerge victorious from within this strong field?

Strongest mentally, have pretty good legs and a bit of luck too. It depends a lot on the weather. 

I looks like it might be cooler this year which takes away some of the usual heat challenge, so maybe it’ll be more of a leg race. However, nobody can be fit enough for 1124km, so your head better be ready to go deep, which is the biggest factor in this race.

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