The grueling 1070km Munga MTB starts in Bloem

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PHOTO: MORGAN PIEK

The 2018, 4th edition of The Munga MTB started at the Windmill Casino in Bloemfontein yesterday, Wednesday 28th November 2018, when 133 riders set off in a westerly direction at noon. Their destination? Doolhof Wine Estate in Wellington some 1070km away.

With a record field of 133 riders, the race has already reached iconic status among ultra endurance riders the world over. Social media has been abuzz with speculation as to how the race will unfold before the final cut-off at noon on Monday 3rd December. Many thought that Marco Martins was overly optimistic when he predicted his 2017 time to be below 60 hours – and yet he delivered, setting the benchmark for the 2018 field to chase at 58:30hrs.

Uncharacteristically cool conditions accompanied by the usual head winds allowed Dutch rider Ramses Bekkink to set a truly blistering pace to reach Race Village 1 at the Vanderkloof Dam, almost 40 minutes ahead of a chasing bunch containing Kevin Benkenstein and 2017 second placed rider, Dion Guy. All these riders are ahead of Marco’s record who’s  settled in nicely in the top 10 riders as the sun set on the first afternoon. Also in the mix is 2017 winner Heinrich Visser, who this year is riding on a gravel bike – making this the most competitive field yet.

Also setting records, is the Ladies Race which this year has swollen to 18 riders – almost 15% of the field.  With defending champion Jeannie Dreyer racing elsewhere in December, a new Ladies Champion will be crowned. Leading the field into Race Village 1 is Janine Stewart. She’ll need to keep one eye on her tail as experienced Munga riders Sarah van Heerden and Nicky Booyens will be keeping a steady pace. Nicky, although having recently returned from the World Adventure Racing Championships in Reunion, may very well be coveting the accolade of being the first person to win their category in both the Munga Trail and MTB events.

Sthembiso Masango, is again set to change his destiny in the Development Category. Having won in 2016 and 2017, he has put his winnings to good use by building his family and house and buying himself a car. As he heads the category out of Race Village 1, he may well be dreaming of the next victory.

But its early days and anything can still happen.

Follow the live tracking here: https://mtb.themunga.com/what/tracking