A 1,000km single stage, unsupported mountain bike race with a claimed prize purse of $1,000,000 – yes, one million dollars – has been launched in South Africa.
The Munga – dubbed the toughest race on earth – will take riders across the semi desert of the Karoo at the height of summer where temperatures can exceed 40ºC during the day.
The race – starting on 3 December 2014 – is open to pairs who have stumped up $10,000 to enter. Like the Cape Epic – one of the biggest mountain bike races in the world that is held in South Africa – both pros and amateurs are eligible to enter.
The rules appear simple: the first pair to make it wins $750,000 (£447,000), second nets $100,000 (£59,000) and third, $50,000 (£30,000). Organisers say there will also be a special ‘underdog’ prize: fourth place down to last will be entered into a lottery to win the remaining $100,000.
The race is brainchild of Alex Harris, an adventurer who completed the Freedom Challenge, a 2,300km unsupported race in South Africa and the 4,400km Tour Divide, which traverses the North American Rockies. Both races are ridden for personal fulfilment and offer no prize money.
Harris said the idea of the Munga was born after wondering what would happen a life-changing amount of prize money was added to people’s motivation to compete in such an endurance event.
Harris told BikeRadar: “I kind of found myself asking the question, what part does money play in this pool of characteristics around what truly motivates, and I truly believe money would play a big part. I also wondered why these fringe races don’t offer prize money and thought it would be great to offer something which combined all these elements.”
The entry is simply the process of going online and paying the deposit, he said.
Despite some critical comments on prize money and entry fees from those who he called “purists”, Harris said the ‘overwhelming’ response the the race launch five days ago had been positive.
“By and large the overwhelming response has been positive. We’ve had just under 10 entries. We’ve had an entry from Italy already,” he said.
“Quite a few people are keen to enter but they want to know dependent is it on entries and we’re going to officially answer that in the next week or so to quell any fears,” he added.
He said the prize purse was being stumped up by a group of South African investors, who may or may not publically sponsor the race.
“We’ve got a consortium of private South African business investors, keen cyclists themselves… the main guy is the chairman of a South African listed company and they may or may not bring their corporate brand to the race,” he said.
“They’ve invested in an idea that I think might have global potential,” said Harris who added that the race would be run in 2015 too.
“Whether 10 guys or a hundred guys show up on the line, someone’s going to win $750,000,” he said.