McGregor to stay vigilant as there’s still some racing left
Beavitt may bruise a few egos after yet another cruise down the river
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