How Oliver Munnik is engineering the dream
11 February 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast where all matters mountain biking are discussed. We meet the personalities, the people, we reveal certain aspects of riders, events, trails. We try and get into what mountain biking really is all about. Today we’re talking to a rider, a personality, a former professional rider, now an amateur rider who gets as much out of his mountain bike as he possibly can. His name is Oliver Munnik. Oliver, how are you?
Oliver Munnik: Hi Gerald.
GDK: Let me put this in context, you’ve just finished a stage of the Berg & Bush Descent.
OM: I’ve just had a really nice beer and there on tap, Mahala. I’ve had a burger and I’m now ready for an afternoon nap, but I find myself in the best of both worlds. I’ve ended a career racing and now I get to enjoy too many events for my wife’s liking, whilst still staying in the industry. I’ve kind of engineered the dream, so to speak.
GDK: One thing you have is an enjoyment, a passion for the sport and you’re very good at expressing that enjoyment and that passion. Go back to when you were racing full-time, as a professional and it was about winning. Was that the same, did you have the same enjoyment factor?
OM: I think it’s a different kind of enjoyment. The pressures are different and Erik Kleinhans, today’s winner, I checked him, I said ‘howzit,’ we’ve done a lot of racing in paired events together. Erik said to me: I wish we could just come back here and just not race. Racing is not about riding as much as it is about the result.
Once you see past that and you can kind of monetise or make a living out of doing the events, or being involved, then there’s a totally different aspect to an event. I have been involved behind the scenes with you, Gerald, on Pioneer for instance and Berg & Bush, we’re having a great time here. Behind the scenes you see a totally, totally different perspective of an event.
The perfect biking day
GDK: What’s the essence of an enjoyable day on the bike for you, Oliver Munnik?
OM: Okay, I’m currently reading Iron War, which is a book about the Ironman in Hawaii, about pain. There was the iconic race between two Americans that unfolded there and it was iconic and they talk a lot about pain and the enjoyment post-pain K’s.
So cycling and pain are synonymous, they’re joined at the hip so to speak. You can’t have one without the other, most of the time. But I think the enjoyment is you can kind of see it where JB and I rode today, stage one of the Grindrod Berg & Bush, we took five hours for what should have taken us four hours.
We had a massage at water point three and that was a first for me. The enjoyment, cycling, the fitter you get, the faster you go, it doesn’t hurt any less. Enjoyment is going to sound like a lame answer, but it’s kind of in the eye of the beholder and also what you want to get out of it.
GDK: What you’re really saying is that enjoyment, 900 riders here, if you asked every one of them here to define enjoyment, they’d probably give you 900 different answers. Because everyone has their own enjoyment factor.
OM: Probably 901 or 902 because you’d have some partners, wives or husbands, giving their view of the enjoyment. Cycling, personally, from my perspective, cycling has been an enabler to travel the world and really meet a diverse cross-section of society. That really will stand me in good stead to see, to be able to communicate with a whole lot of different people and see that passion.
For my dad, he played rugby at UCT and was a weapon, tackled like an animal and he met all his cuzzies through rugby. For us, for my twin Serious Simon and me, we will meet all our connections through cycling and that will be the foundation of our life going forward. It just goes to show that if you can find a passion, I’m not lucky, but we are so fortunate to have been able to find a passion that has led us down this path. That’s given us a foundation rather than skop, skiet en donder.
Do you miss racing?
GDK: Let’s go back to your racing days, if you had the choice, would you still want to be racing with Erik in the first three or four, dicing it out, as you sit now.
OM: So now, sitting here, 31 years old, I don’t want to be a professional athlete. When I was full-time, I was never as good, I had a couple of injuries and it broke me. But anyway, the idea is that I’ve worked myself into a position where I can still hang around with the guys and be involved, but at arm’s length. Still have a normal functioning life where I can have six Ammies on the weekend and not be in the naughty corner – so to speak.
There’s also the idea of a longevity and looking forward, not just right at your feet, but you’ve got to look forward. See what you want to be doing when you’re 40, 50, 60 years old. Had I not broken my back in 2010 and then got chronic fatigue at the end of 2010 and then hurt my Achilles in 2012, it’s not a regret, it’s just that you get pounded all the time.
Then you think to yourself, how do I climb back up this mountain. Then you realise that one has to, at some point, draw a line in the sand. I was given good advice by Karl Leinberger from Coronation. He said to me: Ollie, at some time you have to draw a line in the sand and move on.
You have to give everything towards your goal, but learning to overcome those, whether you make it or not, this is going to sound very corny, but you learn from experience that the journey is 99.9% of the benefit you get from having a goal. You need the goal, but the journey is what counts.
What do you do?
GDK: Where is your life in mountain biking now Ollie?
OM: You’ve put me on the spot here. I would have to say that I’m leveraging my experience and knowledge of having been at the sharp end of the sport and now trying to bring it to the everyday rider who hasn’t had that chance. But also I do a lot of live tweeting, which is based on the Twitter platform and that brings the racing to life.
Mountain biking heads out into the bush, no one knows what’s going on and you might get a little bit of coverage from a water point or something, but no one really knows. My job is to go on the back of a motorbike and we race and career around the mountain bike route and bring the action. That’s adding value now based on the experience.
I also have been writing a lot. I’m contracted to Bicycling magazine and I do the gear there and there again, it’s using the 15-20 years of cycling experience. That informs now to help other people that, well, let me use the word ‘inspire.’ A big thing for me is to inspire people through enthusiasm and going out and doing it.
I’m just luckily the guy that goes and does it. It’s like a travel writer. You always read the newspaper and go: Oh my goodness, this person is in Bangkok or in Norway, why can’t that be me. I said: That’s going to be me and you make a tough decision and money is not the end goal, I can tell you that right now! I have lived a hell of a life.
GDK: We’re at an event here, the Grindrod Bank Berg and Bush, 900 people riding this. That’s the Descent, there’s the Great Trek and the Two Day race, a huge event. Is this a fair barometer on where South African mountain biking is? Are we in a good phase, bearing in mind that cross country is the international discipline of choice for the Olympics and so on? Is this where South Africa wants to be?
OM: Well, if you want to be an elite athlete, it’s not. If you’re a participator who pays the entry fee, then it’s exactly where you want to be.
GDK: If you’re a sponsor an event person, yes.
OM: There are two ways, it’s always great to sponsor athletes and characters because those guys represent your brand 24/7. If you are able to find a good team and a good athlete, then it’s a very valuable way, a good return on your investment.
Likewise, at an event, the branding and the opportunity to have your brand associated with a wholesome sport and a family-orientated activity and a great for keeping fit, that’s also fantastic. They’re both great streams of say return, ROI.
The South African way
But having said that, cycling in general in SA, we are heavily participatory. People want to ride and race and they want to do these events. We’ve also got a hell of a racing attitude and everyone thinks he’s Michael Schumacher. Unfortunately, they’re not, but we don’t tell them that.
It’s important to remember that Berg & Bush is more skewed towards the enjoyment of the event, that’s where my heart is at the moment, it’s more the social and the community. You get other events that focus heavily on media and the racing element. Which are more, I would just use the word ‘hectic’ and there’s a very different energy around the race village. Neither of them are right, they’re just different ways of getting your kick.
GDK: But it’s not a bad place to be working in is it?
OM: No, people say ‘living the dream,’ I like to say ‘engineering the dream’ because it’s not by luck that you and I are sitting here Gerald. We paid our school fees and now we’re reaping the rewards and I just want to say thank you to everybody out there for supporting mountain biking and have a look at Bicycling magazine on the stands and also on Twitter. If you follow a couple of events, maybe you’ll find me on the other end screaming at the riders to keep it pinned.
GDK: There will be a book one day, there will be a book of pinners phrases.
GDK: Your Twitter handle?
OM: I’m @OliverMunnik, but mostly Instagram is where it’s at, at the moment, for day to day. That’s also Oliver Munnik, Instagram for the radness and Twitter for information and Facebook for your friends, baby pictures and holiday to the Bahamas.
GDK: One of the great characters, I told you we spoke to characters in mountain biking, this is one of the great characters, Oliver Munnik from Cape Town. He’s a mountain bike nut, he’s a fantastic personality and a great man and you can catch him following races, following the events around the country.
Follow his Tweets, they’re really entertaining and informative, a great combination. Thanks for chatting Ollie and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. If you enjoyed that, download again, you might get some more advice and interesting incentive and spice from personalities like Oliver. Until then, take care, ride carefully, ride with a smile, enjoy it, cheers.