McGre­gor to stay vig­i­lant as there’s still some rac­ing left

Beav­itt may bruise a few egos af­ter yet an­other cruise down the river

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - MIKE DE BRUYN

TEN-TIMES Berg River Ca­noe Marathon cham­pion Hank McGre­gor is set to oc­cupy top spot on the podium af­ter the fin­ish in Veld­drif to­day af­ter yet an­other ef­fort­less pad­dling ex­hi­bi­tion from the holder on day three yes­ter­day.

The KwaZulu-Na­tal ace cov­ered the 75km third leg from Bridgetown to Zoutk­loof in 5hr 24min 50sec to win, giv­ing him a lead of 7:37 on sec­ond­placed Si­mon van Gy­sen and an over­all time of 13.20:7.

McGre­gor’s speed off the mark and ease in hold­ing po­si­tion at the front of the field, be­fore step­ping on the pace, sep­a­rated him from the ever-thin­ning chas­ing pack.

While he has been over­taken at times, there’s no deny­ing the Euro Steel/Kayak Cen­tre ath­lete’s raw speed when it comes to a sprint to the line.

When he ac­cel­er­ates, it’s as if his main ri­vals are de­cel­er­at­ing. He showed this in the pre-race time trial and again on days one and two as he opened up a minute-and-a-half lead over Van Gy­sen go­ing into the penul­ti­mate stage.

And he went about de­liv­er­ing an­other mas­ter­ful per­for­mance while work­ing in tan­dem with three oth­ers who did not in­clude Van Gy­sen, who was duly got pun­ished and lost six min­utes to the leader.

WP’s Edgar Boehm, Petr Mo­jžíšek of the Czech Repub­lic and Hun­gar­ian Adrian Boros formed the di­a­mond with McGre­gor with­out tak­ing the stage win.

Be­fore­hand, McGre­gor sin­gled out lo­cal hope Van Gy­sen as a dark horse. Van Gy­sen, a pro­fes­sional diver by trade, was the form man in the preBerg races and his vic­tory in the Pink Lady event sug­gested he would be the chief threat as far as the lo­cal con­tin­gent was con­cerned. It’s only his third Berg out­ing and his time will come once McGre­gor calls it a day.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see who ends up mak­ing it onto the podium.

The chief con­tenders for third are in­cum­bent Boros, 2001 race win­ner Graeme Solomon and Aus­tralians Brendon Rice and Josh Kip­pin. Boros pros­pered in the lead bunch – a far cry from the hap­pen­ings on the sec­ond stage that saw him get lost on sev­eral oc­ca­sions – cost­ing him lost time and ef­fec­tively end­ing his chal­lenge for a tilt at the ti­tle.

“I had a good time out there on the long­est stage of the race,” said McGre­gor, who needed four stitches to his head af­ter pad­dling into a tree block­ing on Thurs­day.

“Be­ing a batch start af­forded me the op­por­tu­nity to sit back and take things easy. It was all about stay­ing with the lead group and us four work­ing for each other over one-kilo­me­tre stints to help neu­tralise a long stage among other things to do with race tac­tics, and I was able to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­tend my over­all lead.

“But there’s still some rac­ing to do to­day and I’ll stay vig­i­lant as usual.”

As far as the seven-strong women’s race is con­cerned, it has been a walk in the park for de­fend­ing cham­pion Bianca Beav­itt. She’s hardly been chal­lenged and will win com­fort­ably. And there’s a chance that she may fin­ish in­side the top 20 over­all.

That would be a mean feat in­deed. No doubt that if it pans out that way there will be many men nurs­ing bro­ken egos be­sides aching bod­ies.

She did have a hard day at the of­fice, how­ever, brought on by not feel­ing well. It al­lowed Ni­cole Rus­sell to take the stage win and im­prove her chances of deny­ing 2013 win­ner Jenna Ward sec­ond place.

HANK MCGRE­GOR: Sat back and took things easy in batch start.

NIKKI RUS­SELL: Im­proved her chances with stage win

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