McGregor takes Drak lead
Hank McGregor (Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media)
Underberg - Triple Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon victors Hank McGregor and Abby Adie got their 2014 title challenges off to the perfect start when they overcame the testing low river conditions and a strong field to claim victory in Saturday’s opening stage of the SA K1 River Championships.
After organisers were forced change the stage’s course from the traditional Castleburn to Swartberg Bridge stretch to the shortened Trout Hatcheries to Callaway Bridge due to the low water level, Canoe Marathon World Champion McGregor claimed a slender two second lead over Under-23 Canoe Marathon World Champ Andy Birkett while Adie will rest easy overnight after finishing more than five minutes ahead of her nearest rival.
“Today was all about trying to conserve myself and the boat as much as possible without letting the others get too far ahead of me,” said McGregor afterwards. “To have finished first is really great and I’m stoked with how things went.”
“You really had to work hard to pick your way through all the rocks and find your lines. It was also really important to ensure you kept concentrating the whole time because in conditions like this it is pretty easy for you to get your paddle stuck between two rocks and fall out which obviously could be pretty costly.”
A strong start saw a lead group of five dictate proceedings early on however a strong interval from Birkett going into Taylor’s Weir whittled things down to two at the sharp end of the race whilst plenty of chopping and changing went on throughout just a little further back in the field.
“Andy and I had fun out there together,” said McGregor. “He was ahead coming towards the finish but I managed to just do enough to get past him as we went under Callaway Bridge and take the stage win.”
“Hopefully we get a bit of rain overnight and the river fills up a foot or two for tomorrow because then it should be a great day’s racing.
“Andy’s a great competitor and it won’t be easy at all but I know where I’m going, I’ve been in a similar position a couple of times before and hopefully things all work out for me.”
For Birkett it was a welcome return to a race he hasn’t taken part in for over four years and the young Dusi star will be looking forward to another tough day’s racing with McGregor on Sunday.
“Once Hank and I got away together we were racing hard and didn’t give each other any space but it was nice because there was still enough time out there for us to chat and enjoy ourselves together,” said the triple Dusi Canoe Marathon champ.
“I’m quite surprised we’ve got the kind of lead that we do because we weren’t really pushing all that hard but it's great to have a bit of a gap over the others ahead of tomorrow.
Having fallen off the pace slightly midway through the stage, 2013 Dusi winner Lance Kime and defending Drak Challenge champion Grant van der Walt finished side by side to claim third and fourth place respectively before a four-man sprint finish by Len Jenkins, Thulani Mbanjwa, Australia’s Josh Kippin and Jacques Theron eventually saw Jenkins round out the top five.
Women’s defending champion Adie dominated proceedings in the ladies race as she ploughed through the low conditions to take a resounding lead at the end of the shortened first day of racing.
“I really enjoyed it out there,” the 2013 champion said. “The low levels really benefit us lighter girls and that helped me a lot. A lot of rocks were exposed out there but fortunately I didn’t get stuck!”
The tactics of Adie were clear from the get go and as she took off it was only eventual day one second place finisher Robyn Kime who managed to hang on to Adie early on.
The relentless pressure soon told though as Kime fell off Adie’s wave and the lead soon grew between the two leading competitors.
“I really wanted to go hard from the beginning and I couldn’t believe that I had such a big lead when I came into the finish!
“I came into the race feeling really confident so I knew that I had a good chance but I really didn’t think it was going to be this good!” a surprised Adie added.
For Kime it was about trying to stay in touch with Adie for as long as she could but also to get herself back into the swing of things after a substantial break over the festive period.
“I felt good out there today,” the defending Dusi Canoe Marathon champion said. “It was a little uneventful after I got a bit stuck on a rock early on and lost Abby (Adie) but I was happy with how it went and after a good break I’m just trying to get fit again.”
An interesting battle for the final step of the women’s podium is set to unfold on Sunday’s second stage. Michelle Burn holds a slender nine second lead over the chasing pack of Jenna Ward, Abby Adie’s twin sister Alex and Brittany Petersen.
A field of close on 750 paddlers enjoyed the low and testing conditions and with overnight storms predicted, there is every chance a full second stage could be enjoyed by all on Sunday.DAY 1OverallMen
1. Hank McGregor 1.40:53
2. Andy Birkett 1.40:55
3. Lance Kime (U23) 1.42:42
4. Grant van der Walt 1.42:45
5. Len Jenkins Jnr 1.45:23
6. Thulani Mbanjwa 1.45:24
7. Josh Kippin (AUS) 1.45:25
8. Jacques Theron 1.45:27
9. Siseko Ntondini (U23) 1.45:45
10. Shaun Griffin 1.46:05
11. Owen Gandar (U23) 1.46:15
12. Damon Stamp (U18) 1.47:32
13. Ben Biggs 1.47:34
14. Zonele Nzuza 1.47:36
15. Mmele Cele (U23) 1.47:39
16. Don Wewege (U23) 1.47:40
17. Andrew Houston (U23) 1.47:43
18. Carl Folsher 1.48:15
19. Craig Turton 1.49:05
20. David Chaplin 1.49:06Women
1. Abby Adie 1.52:45
2. Robyn Kime 1.57:15
3. Michelle Burn 2.00:11
4. Jenna Ward (U23) 2.00:19
5. Alex Adie 2.00:20Under-23 Men
1. Lance Kime 1.42:42
2. Siseko Ntondini 1.45:45
3. Owen Gandar 1.45:45Under-23 Women
1. Jenna Ward 2.00:19
2. Brittany Petersen 2.00:23
3. Jordan Peek 2.05:48