Dion Guy will be hoping for an injury-free ride in the gruelling 1 070km The Munga mountain-bike race which starts tomorrow, but said it is the kind of event where anything can happen.
The ultra-endurance trek, nicknamed “the toughest race on earth”, will start in Bloemfontein tomorrow and finish at the Doolhof Wine Estate in Wellington, Western Cape, in a non-stop contest.
Guy finished second overall last year and was the first South African home, losing out to Portugal’s Marco Martins. He completed the race in two days, 13 hours and four minutes.
What made his silver medal extra special, however, was that he completed most of the distance with a fractured rib and a lacerated bicep.
About 200km into the race he rode into a fence, fell and was injured. Despite problems breathing after that he kept going.
“The plan is to do better than I did last year with regards to time,” Guy told In the Bunch today.
“I will be very happy if I can take an hour or two off my time from last year. But this race can pose so many different variables; it gives you 10 different reasons to pull out at any given time.
“I want to keep healthy, stay out of trouble and just keep the pedals turning. That’s what I’m really hoping for, but it’s such a far distance that anything can happen.”
From his previous experience, the 46-year-old expects the racing to only really start in Sutherland, approximately 800km in.
“Those last 300km are probably worth about 500km,” he said.
“Regardless of where you are at that point, you have to keep an open mind.
“By the time we got to Sutherland last year we were almost sitting there saying the race was over. Then it was about fighting for your position. So I have to have that clarity this time round that it only starts there.”
Last year Guy only had about two and a half hours’ sleep throughout the race and stopped occasionally at race villages along the route.
He will try to minimise those stoppages as much as possible this time, saying every time they race “the boundaries get pushed”.
“The frontrunners will probably be looking at Loxton [580km in] to even consider sleeping.
“It’s quite a push to think that [after] roughly 600km to 700km you only think about taking a decent stop – it becomes quite a mental challenge.”
He added that one could train as much as possible before the race, but it was those first six hours which would dictate your fitness.
“From six hours to 60 hours is the mental side,” Guy said. “It’s about how you force your body to stay on the bike.
“A race like this is probably five per cent fitness and 95 per cent mental. It’s totally different to most races, as such.”
Guy said they expected “the strongest field we’ve seen over the years” at this season’s edition.
“There are probably about 10 guys this year who have an outside chance of winning,” Guy said.
“But I’m confident; from a fitness perspective I’m probably at the same point I was last year and mentally I’m in a good space,” he said, adding however that there were many “unknowns” such as heat and wind.