Coetzee tames Big Munga in record time

Drikus Coetzee poses with his bike and gold medal at the finish line of the Big Munga. Photo: contributed

Namibian cyclist Drikus Coetzee tamed one of the world’s longest ultra-endurance mountain bike races, the Big Munga in a new record time of just under 48 hours on Friday.

The Big Munga is the longest ultra-endurance MTB race in South Africa, starting in Bloemfontein and covering some inhospitable terrain through the Karoo desert to Wellington, 1 137km to the south. 

Coetzee broke the previous record of 50 hours 30 minutes by close to three hours with a new time of 47 hours and 37 minutes, thereby reaching his personal goal of completing it in under 48 hours. 

Since then he has been the centre of attention with his extraordinary feat grabbing the headlines in the South African media. 

“Superman triumphs,” a poster of Die Burger exclaimed, with a photo of Coetzee with his gold medal, holding his mountain bike aloft at the finish line, while News24 reported, “Superman of Namibia wins Munga in record time.”

Coetzee has since returned to work in Windhoek, but yesterday said that interviews were still streaming in. 

“Yes, its been in the SA media and I’m also on Kyknet’s ‘Die Groot Ontbyt’ programme on Dstv, so it’s been quite busy. But I’m just so glad that I could reach my aim of breaking the 48-hour mark, I wanted to see how far I could push my body’s limits,” he said. 

Coetzee said he took the lead from the start and went out on his own after about 10 minutes, while he only slept about 15 minutes over the two days of riding. 

“Before the race I told myself that I would only sleep if I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. That happened after 960km when I could literally not see anymore, which was at about 05h00 on Friday morning, so I got off my bike and set my alarm for 15 minutes. Then I got back up, had two sandwiches and a coffee and continued on the last 180km of the trip,” he said. 

Coetzee finished more than three hours ahead of second-placed Thinus Redelinghuys (50:53), while Willie Smit came third in 56:11. 

With that victory Coetzee also completed a remarkable endurance record trilogy as he now holds all three Munga titles in record times. Besides last week’s Big Munga, he last year also won the 500km Munga Grit Tankwa in a record time of 22 hours 17 minutes, and the 500km Munga Grit Cradle in a record time of 21:47.

Coetzee said he was well prepared for the Big Munga. 

“My preparations went extremely well – I already started focussing on this event after last year’s Desert Dash while I prepared meticulously for all weather conditions and scenarios, for the day and the night. In the Loxton area it was about 50 degrees, so I struggled a bit then, but besides that I rode strongly throughout till the finish. I hardly over-exerted myself, I’ve already recovered and now I’m looking forward to doing the Desert Dash this coming weekend. I would have liked to do the solo race, but I already committed myself to a four-man team,” he said.

Coetzee said his achievement had not sunk in yet, but thanked all his sponsors who have supported him over the years.

“It was fantastic to cross the finishing line in that time, to realise that all the  hard work paid off. It has not sunk in yet – I went straight back to the office on Monday, but it will probably strike me later,” he said. 

“I just want to thank my sponsors for believing in me and all their support over the years, because it takes years to achieve this,” he added, and thanked the following sponsors:

The Janine and Suzelle Davin Sport Trust, Indongo Toyota, Hollard Namibia, BRG Biokinetics, Garmin, DeoPharma and Gravel & Tour. 

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