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New ‘World’s Toughest Bike Race’ Offering $1 Million Prize

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Racers compete in the Cape Epic; Wikipedia photo

Calling all badasses: A new mountain bike race is offering unheard-of prize money for those able to win (or even podium) in a massive single-stage sufferfest in South Africa.

The Munga is a 1000 km (621 mile) race. Organizers claim it will elevate the sport of mountain biking with a tremendous purse. The winner of the Munga will take home $750,000, followed by $100,000 for second, and $50,000 for third place.

All the finishers from fourth place down will be entered for a lottery for the remaining $100,000.

Sound good? There’s a catch (well, a couple): The entry fee is $10,000.

Oh, and you have to ride across some of the most rugged terrain in South Africa, in the summer, when temperatures regularly break 100 degrees F.

The race is open to both pros and amateurs.

Racers will cross the semi-desert region known as the Karoo; photo source Wikipedia

South Africa is no stranger to tough mountain bike races. The country has hosted the Cape Epic, a 700km+ stage race, since 2004.

“The Munga offers more than just a race, it’s a test against the toughest of external elements and against the human body,” said Alex Harris, explorer, athlete, and Race Director of The Munga. “With The Munga’s prize money significantly more than that of current event prizes, it is a massive leap for the sport.”

Harris was inspired to create the race after winning a few epics himself. He won the Freedom Challenge, a 2,300 km monster of a race, in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and, in 2013, finished third in the Tour Divide, which covers the length of the Rocky Mountains.

Those races, while long and brutally tough, offered no prize money and little recognition to the victors.

“Why is it that the toughest races in the world offer no prize money?” he asked. “And the toughest athletes go unnoticed while conventional stage races glorify the few after just 5 or 6 hours on a bike, with podiums and pampered massages.”

With the Munga, he hopes to change that.

Alex Harris introduces the new race

The Munga kicks off on Dec. 3, 2014. The intense, 1000km route for The Munga’s inaugural race will start in Bloemfontein, leading riders across the Karoo, a massive semi-desert region of South Africa. The race finishes at the Waterford Wine Estate, about 50km from Cape Town.

The route has been designed to combine endurance, experience and strategy to satisfy those riding enthusiasts looking for a compelling story. It is set to take riders through some of South Africa’s lesser travelled paths – a trail that showcases South Africa’s remoteness – while testing the strongest of wills.

“The world is not short of tough things to do. It’s short of tough people willing to tackle tough things. And this is set to be one of the toughest races on earth,” said Harris.

So if you’re one of those tough people, find a partner and get ready to pony-up a hefty entry fee. Three quarters of a million dollars could be waiting at the finish line. —Sean McCoy

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