Written by our own Bianca Silberbauer who also rode the Munga Grit Tankwa
What is the Munga Grit?
Most people have heard of the infamous Munga race, one of the toughest races on Earth, with 1100km of mountain biking across the country, from Bloemfontein to Wellington with a 120h cut off time. Well the Munga Grit is half the distance but less than half the time, 500km in 50h, as their payoff line claims, ‘Half ain’t easy!’
The Munga Grit has a few races through the year, the first, which took place from 8-10 April in the Tankwa, saw riders fighting gruelling headwinds and atrocious corrugations on the 500km loop with 5000m elevation, through the beautiful but brutal Tankwa Karoo, to earn their stripes. The next Munga Grit will take place from 5-7 August in Sabie and the next will be from 30 September – 2 October in the Cradle of Humankind.
What to expect in a Munga Grit
While these events are extremely gruelling and will push your limits further than you ever knew was possible, you will be greeted by the friendliest people at every waterpoint where they will make sure you have everything you need before sending you back off into the wind with a cheery wave. You will experience views beyond measure as you ride, often solo, through the expansive landscapes beneath a sea of stars or as you descend a mountain pass into a flaming sunrise.
The Munga Grit Tankwa had a relatively large field of 90 intrepid riders set off from the start shoot, with some choosing to take it slow and slog it out, sleeping at the Race Villages and enjoying all the food laid on by Food Lovers at each water point along the route to roll back across the finish line before the cut off after a solid two days of riding. However, for the racing snakes the race strategy looked quite different, the front group set off at a blazing pace, splitting up the field as soon as they left the 2 km neutral zone. The 2 times Commonwealth Games competitor and National Road Champ, Dirkus Coetzee from Namibia pulled away from the bunch early on working alone into the headwind that persisted for the first flat 180 km before the route began to climb up the infamous Ouberg Pass where he extended his lead, signing in at Race Village 1 a good hour up from the chase group.
Dirkus raced through the night barely stopping to refuel and managed to maintain his lead to finish the next day in 22h17 leaving the chasers to fight it out for the rest of the podium, with Dean Hopf finishing second in 23h53 and Wade Harris rounding out the podium in 25h50.
Despite having a small ladies field of 8, there were some strong contenders for the podium positions, with Francis Visser, a previous second place finisher at the Munga, and Rebecca van Huysteen who won the Sedgefield500 outright earlier this year. There were also some fresh faces, including the Iron Woman herself, Jenny Close, who has many triathlon accolades, including an age category victory in IronMan SA and is currently training towards Kona. Jenny pulled away from the start and rode a strong and consistent race to finish just outside the overall top 10 in a time of 30h06 and 11th overall. Bianca Silberbauer, also a first time Munga Grit rider, finished as second lady and also within the top 20 in a time of 33h13, followed by Francis Visser finishing third in 37h58.
The Munga also aims to support development riders by not only providing equal prize money for the Men’s and Ladies’ podium finishers, but for the first three development riders too. This year the Development podium consisted of Sithembiso Masango finishing in 30h09, Wavamuno Muzamiru finishing in 31h59 and John Ntuli finishing in 35h12.
If you are interested in challenging yourself and pushing your limits, especially if you are a female or a development rider, get yourself entered in the next Munga Grit and lets build the field!