Riding from Bloemfontein to Wellington, at the peak of summer through the Karoo. It isn’t a great idea.
Brutal heat. Headwinds. And the ghosts of your own creation in the Karoo, at 2am. These elements conspire against those who embark upon their Munga journey.
Kevin Benkenstein loves extreme endurance riding and won this year’s event. There is no question that the Munga is South Africa’s most challenging cycling event. And among the toughest global off-road races.
Benkenstein took just 57 hours to complete the route from Bloemfontein to Wellington, finishing two and a half hours ahead of his nearest competitor.
With modern cycling computers, Benkentstein’s amazing Munga ride data is there for all to read. And the numbers are impressive. He covered the 1154km in 49 hours and 20 minutes of ride time. His total time was 57 hours and 13 minutes, with a few naps and rest strops included.
Benkenstein’s moving average was 23.4km/h and he finished with a total average of 20.15km/h. To keep him rolling along, his legs cranked a power output of 176W for the two and a bit days, burning 36 000 calories in the process.
Ride24 sat down with Benkenstein to find out what it takes to cover so much distance so quickly.
What do you think set you apart from the competitors and allowed you to ride to victory convincingly?
Despite the length of the race, the margins are tiny. I think gaining a small performance margin can reap big rewards.
I maintained better energy levels compared to the other riders still in the mix after 700km. And that paid off in the last 200km, where I was able to pull away from Brian, who was in second place.
You seemed more in control this year. What would you put that down to?
I think I rode with self-belief for the first time, which was the most significant factor for me and allowed me to ride my race, rather than letting others dictate my decisions.
Several strong contenders started this year, but you managed to resist all the attacks.
I have certainly had things go wrong in the past where I have felt good, and I think that is normal, human.
The heat and the wind were quite severe on the first two days, and that takes its toll and can turn your legs (and stomach) to jelly. It is a tough race to get right, which is part of its allure.
What does one do, to put back some of those 36 000 calories?
I consumed approximately 30 bars, ten gels, maybe 15-litres of energy drink, at least seven litres of Coke, 40-litres of water and plenty of marmite sandwiches.
How much did you sleep and how do you keep performing with so little sleep?
I slept for 90min in total, 60min at 600km and 30min at 810km.
I am not sure how your body keeps going on so little, but you do get slower for sure, just very steady. If you keep fuelling yourself with carbs, the body has fuel to burn, so it doesn’t completely give up.
I have also been doing this for six years now, so my energy systems are a bit more used to these sorts of efforts than they used to be.