A chance to disappear

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on September 8, 2017

TO MOST people, a 3000km bike race across Australia’s rugged terrain and a personal plea from the event coordinator to not enter the competition is unappealing enough, but to Kevin Benkenstein and seven other cycling enthusiasts, life is too short to miss out on such a feat.

“At first, it seemed quite unreachable, being in Australia and me being in South Africa,” Mr Benkenstein said.

“But I kept thinking about it and talking about it and I thought, life’s a bit short, so I began the application process.

“I resigned from my job.

“I decided I was going to do it, whatever it took.

“It’s stupid, really.”

Race to the Rock is an unusual cycling challenge that begins in different locations in Australia, and ends at Uluru, in the Northern Territory.

The race kicked off without fanfare from the Deserted Mounted Corps Memorial after a minute’s silence in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The extreme trial is driven solely by individual riders’ determination and they are only provided with a bike GPS, to track their movement across the country.

Prospective entrants had a very specific postal application process to complete, including sending cash to the value of one kilogram of broccoli for their hometown and sending parts of their application in different coloured envelopes.

People are not encouraged to enter the race.

“I had no guarantee my postal applications would arrive in Australia, so my friend David in Adelaide had to help me, to make sure my application got through.

“I booked my plane ticket before I got accepted, because I decided I was going to do it.”

An immense amount of equipment decisions and mental preparation was involved in Mr Benkenstein’s pre-race organisation.

“Nothing will be done without purpose,” Mr Benkenstein said.

“I usually ride about 500km a week back home, so I didn’t need to do any extra physical training.

“It’s the preparation that’s the main thing, and a lot of planning, as the race is completely self-supported.”

Mr Benkenstein is riding for home charity Qhubeka, which donates bikes to disadvantaged communities across Africa, to give students a ride to school and access to education.

“You have to understand why you want to do it,” Mr Benkenstein said.

“It will test the limit of the body, mind and spirit.

“I’m a bit conflicted with society, so bike rides like this gives me the chance to just disappear for a while.”

Following the riders’ departure from Albany on Saturday at 6.22am, they made their way through the south-west of the state.

Mr Benkenstein estimated it would take about two weeks to reach the goal location – Australia’s red centre, at Uluru.

The riders’ progress can be followed on the Race to the Rock Facebook page.