Saturday, 12 December 2015

Racing The Munga - Post race reflections.

This time last week I was wrestling with extreme heat and wind as I crawled my way across the corrugated veins of the Tankwa Karoo. Back in Johannesburg in air conditioned comfort I have had time to mull over the events of the race. However, even after documenting my experiences of the race, I have tried to figure out the construct, genre, and classification of The Munga. It's not your typical race.

It's harder than the Epic. That's my opinion, having done a few Epic's. Harder in that it's a completely different animal. Stage races just don't have 400km days. Or no "days" for that matter.

How does it compare to the Freedom Challenge? Having ridden the Freedom Challenge (FC) a number of times I can say with authority that they are fundamentally different in their DNA. Except I can see a lot of cross over. Someone drawn to either The Munga or the FC will find the other appealing.

I have yet to attempt the Tour Divide but know a few people who have, including Mr Munga (Alex Harris) himself. My sense is that the race DNA is styled after the Tour Divide but genetically modified to suit local conditions and appetite.

To ride the route from Bloemfontein to Wellington 100% self supported is fraught with difficulties. The Great Karoo is a sleepy part of the world. Arriving in some of those towns after 8 pm you are unlikely to find water, food or shelter. It's not like you can pop into the local fuel station to grab a Coke and a sandwich. It was only once we had crossed into the Western Cape (Ceres) where such amenities existed. There simply aren't 24 hour facilities. Added to that, is the huge distances between towns.

The Northern Cape is the largest province in South Africa (30%) but contains less than 2% of the countries population. The harsh terrain has a lot to do with that. It's not the ideal place for riding your bike.

And yet, The Munga was an out-and-out success. Alex has managed to meld a number of disparate bike race elements and create an event that is unique. It's non-stop but I'm not sure it ticks the "unsupported" box in the Tour Divide sense. Nevertheless, the support given is confined to that offered by the race organisers. Without this limited support this event simply could not take place. Certainly not across the Great Karoo. It's a delicate balancing act and I think they got it spot on. I am sure there will be tweaks here and there, but the formula is almost perfect.

This is a race that should have massive appeal. Endurance biking is now no longer the preserve of the avid adventure racer or Freedom Challenge enthusiast. It's the next logical progression from fully serviced stage racing. If you want to step a little outside your comfort zone then The Munga must be on your bucket list.

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