Sean does it again for Thembalami

Sean Wheeler beat his personal best time to complete this year’s Munga Mountain Bike Race in 98h50m, shaving two hours off his time despite the route being 45km longer this year.

Known as the toughest race on earth, the Munga is a non-stop, single-stage, semi-supported mountain bike race through the remote and rugged Karoo. Riders have 120 hours or five days to ride around 1 125 km and make the cut-off. The race took place in the first week of December.

As usual, Sean was riding to raise funds for Rand Aid’s Thembalami Care Centre. His dad Mike was a well-cared for resident of Thembalami for many years before passing away this year, during the lockdown.

Sean says he rode in memory of his dad and all the care centre’s amazing caregivers.

“I unfortunately missed my goal of 80 hours but was extremely glad to finish the race within the 120-hour cut-off and to better my previous best time,” says Sean.

In his last Munga in 2018, Sean raised R45 000 for Thembalami but the financial uncertainty and economic downturn meant that less than half that amount was raised this year.

The amount of money raised was not the only casualty of South Africa’s economic crisis. On returning to work after the race, Sean learnt that he was being retrenched, after four years with his company.

“We are extremely grateful to Sean and stand in awe of his achievement. Despite the challenges he has faced this year, he remained committed to helping Thembalami. This shows incredible strength of character. The money raised will be put to good use,” says Thembalami manager Esme van der Walt.

Of this year’s race, the Greenstone resident says apart from the additional 45km, there were hundreds of kilometres of soft sand and rocky sections “I was going well until the 400km mark and then it felt like both my thighs had been smashed hard with a baseball bat. I think the soft sand and strong headwind did the damage and it took me a day to recover.

“Picking up a saddle sore at the 400km mark also added to my misery. I then settled into survival mode to the end.”

Some statistics:

  • Average moving speed: 16.3km/h
  • Average heart rate: 135. Maximum heart rate: 235.
  • Minimum temperate along the route: 8°C. Maximum: 53°C.
  • Average power 90 watts. Maximum 666w.
  • Elevation: 6 886m.
  • Total Distance after a few navigational errors 1 135 Km
  • Actual sleep: Around 7 hours total.

Sean Wheeler at the 2020 Munga.

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