Adventure Sport

McGregor takes charge

2012-07-11 20:09
Hank McGregor (Photo: John Hishin/Gameplan Media)
Zonquasdrift - Defending champion Hank McGregor and team-mate Grant van der Walt took a stranglehold on the Berg river canoe marathon with an emphatic first stage victory on a fast flowing and swollen Berg river.

McGregor had an ally for the first time in his decade-long domination of this race in Team Best 4 Kayak Centre team-mate Grant van der Walt, who despite being a Berg novice, worked in tandem with McGregor to grind out a 4 minutes 15 second lead over the 62km from Paarl to Zonquasdrift.

"It was a brilliant to be able to work together with my great mate and training partner to first hold off the challenges from the other guys, and then to drop them and earn a decent lead by the overnight stop," said McGregor.

The duo shook off their last serious challenger Lance King just above the Hermon bridge 16km from the end of the stage where McGregor bagged the R5000 Best 4 Bridge hotspot.

"You never would have guessed that Grant (van der Walt) has never done this race before," said McGregor. "The full river suited him being a heavier guy, but he was brilliant, and has what it takes to win this race one day."

The stage started at a furious pace, with Lance King and former winner Graeme Solomon trying to force a mistake out of the Durban duo, but a group of eight was together at the compulsory portage at Skooltjie low level bridge.

Heinrich Schloms bungled his take out and got stuck in the trees and Edgar Boehm Jnr was also shaken off the front bunch at the quick run around the hazardous obstacle. "I was left on my own for the rest of the day," said Schloms. "I had to amuse myself singing songs in my head all the time, but mostly it was "I'm so lonely"," he quipped.

Solomon remained dominant until the front group reached Klei rapid, where he was forced to the bank to repair his footpump, costing him 40 seconds and losing contact with the race leaders.

Gradually McGregor started to dictate matters in the front bunch, and they shrugged off all the chasers by the time they reached Hermon bridge where they refuelled and decided to work together to maximise their advantage over the final hour.

The women's race proved to be a thriller throughout the long first stage with double champion Robyn Kime and Jen Theron trading the lead throughout until Theron seized a small opportunity in the final kilometre to open up a one minute lead.

"I am thrilled that my endurance held out and that I was able to stay with Robyn, who was much stronger than me at the Swartland marathon a month ago," said Theron.

Both women finished in the top thirty, and under the revised race rules they will be allowed to start where they finished the previous stage in elapsed time, and ride the slip of male paddlers around them.

"It is a massive step forward for women's paddling," said Kime. "This is such a tough race as it is, but to expect the women to paddle on their own all the way is crazy. I am thrilled the race has fallen in line with the other major races."

""Robyn (Kime) is good enough to make a top ten one day," added Theron. "Under the new rules she now has a chance to achieve a result like that which would be brilliant for women's canoeing."

The second stage starts at Zonquasdrift on Thursday and ends at Bridgetown.


Stage 1:

1.Hank McGregor 3:53.18
2.Grant van der Walt 3:53.19
3.Graeme Solomon 3:57.34
4.Simon van Gysen 3:57.37
5.Lance King 3:57.40
6.Heinrich Schloms 4:01.38
7.Robbie Herreveld 4:03.24
8.Jacques Theron 4:03.24
9. Ivan Kruger 4:04.24
10.Edgar Boehm Jnr 4:07.06
11.Graham Monteith 4:07.21
12.Louw van Riet 4:09.56
13.Loveday Zondi 4:13.56
14.Thulani Mbanjwa 4:13.56
15.Siseko Mtondini 4:13.57
16.Daan du Toit 4:17.10
17.Paul Marais 4:21.04
18.Chris de Waal 4:23.29
19.Joseph Williams 4:23.30
20.Luke Stowman 4:23.32


1.Jen Theron 4:26.06
2.Robyn Kime 4:27.09
3.Jenna ward 4:47.47
4.Kirsten Penderis 4:51.06
5.Robyn Henderson 4:53.08
6.Marisa Pretorius 4:58.28


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