She has mountain biked over the Himalayas, across the dunes of the Sahara Desert and through the dense jungles of Sri Lanka.

Sonya Looney. Credit: Matt Ewonus.

And now the professional endurance racer known for her perpetual smile – even under the toughest of circumstances – is on her way to South Africa to take on the Old Mutual joBerg2c.

“I have always wanted to race and travel in South Africa. Racing for me is as much about community building as it is about going fast. I’m looking forward to making a lot of new friends,” Sonya says. “I also saw that one-third of the race is singletrack … the more the better! I love long, hard races and covering long distances. I’ve heard that joBerg2c has the best stage race course in South Africa and the best riding. I have no doubt that it’ll live up to expectations.”

The Old Mutual joBerg2c starts outside Johannesburg, heads south and ends nine days later on the beach at Scottburgh, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. It takes place from April 22 to 30 this year.

Sonya will be riding in the mixed category with friend Yuki Ikeda of Japan: “We have been friends for almost a decade and have travelled to races together all over the world,” Sonya says. “We have never raced a stage race as a team, but I’m looking forward to it. Yuki is also an experienced stage racer. Our goal is to have fun, ride fast, and win!”

Sonya has been a professional rider for eight years and a stage rider for the last five years. She has won or podiumed at nearly 20 stage races in 11 countries. “I love stage racing because it's the best way to see the world or a region of a country. You get to see places you wouldn’t normally see as a tourist. It's a unique experience of camaraderie, adventure, travel, and physical challenge,” Sonya says.

Sonya Looney. Credit: Matt Ewonus.

Old Mutual’s Head of Brand, Karen Thomas, said the sponsor was delighted to have an athlete of Looney’s ability taking part: “She demonstrates values that we believe in. She plans for success and sticks to that plan and is a determined, dedicated and consummate professional.”

“It will be great having an outstanding woman athlete in the field,” she added.

Meanwhile, the race organisers have announced that law firm Lanham-Love, which specialises in matrimonial law, has sponsored a special R50 000 bonus for the mixed category. This means that Sonya and Yuki could take home R80 000 between them if they win the category.

And given her success in some of the toughest events around the world, it would take a brave person to bet against Sonya notching up another win.