The infamous third stage of the 2016 Berg River Canoe Marathon saw plenty of drama in contrasting men’s and women’s races on Friday as the international duo of Adrian Boros and Petr Mojžíšek matched eventual stage winner Hank McGregor right up to the final end sprint while Nikki Russell claimed her maiden stage win.
The 72-kilometre stage from Bridgetown to Zoutkloof threatened to produce the goods following an exciting bunch start in the morning which set off at a blistering pace and the front group of four, including McGregor, Boros, Mojžíšek and local stalwart Edgar Boehm Jnr, opened a significant gap at the first portage at the Misverstand Dam wall.
‘I’ve done an 80km paddle before but this was way more difficult because it is in a race,’ world marathon K2 Champion Boros said after the stage.
‘We tried to get the group down to four early on and when we managed to do that we shared the work for the rest of the stage.
‘I am happy with how everything went and I am glad that the stage is done and I cannot wait to get to the finish tomorrow,’ a happy Boros added.
Despite the running repairs overnight Euro Steel/Kayak Centre star Hank McGregor shrugged off the ordeal and won a well contested end sprint on Friday and with it cemented his place at the front of the race with the final 60km stage into Velddrif the final obstacle between him and an eleventh Berg crown.
‘I tried to manipulate the bunch across the dam and unfortunately for Simon as he was the closest to me I wanted him off but Edgar was the lucky guy to be on the back of the diamond and then we just worked together for the rest of the stage.
‘It was interesting that the two internationals were both guys that have finished in second place behind me at the World Marathon Championships so that was quite something!’ McGregor commented.
Although McGregor has 10 Berg titles to his name he maintains there is no-one who doesn’t suffer on such a long stage of paddling, but having put in the bulk of the hard work in the first three days he believes the final stage into Velddrif will be an enjoyable one.
‘A 72km stage is never going to be easy and it hurts, it doesn’t matter who you are so I was just really chuffed to be on the front bunch at the end and I appreciate the great sportsmen that I was racing with.
‘I had a lot of fun out there and I am really looking forward to the stage tomorrow and I’ve got a significant gap back to Simon so I am hoping that I might be able to enjoy the final day for a change.
The women’s title race was turned on its head on Friday when Nikki Russell blitzed the other women to take her first stage win in her debut Berg following a her patient wait for the flatter final two stages.
‘I am not a good river paddler and I haven’t tripped the river at all so I knew that I had to wait for the final two stages and I was looking forward to the stage today and through my training I was really prepared for this long, flat stuff.
‘The last 10 kilometres today were really tough but I really should have listened to my coach and come and tripped before the race because yesterday was a disaster but I really enjoyed today even though I was crying inside!’ a satisfied Russell mentioned.
Despite finishing second on the stage Century City/Pink Lady’s Bianca Beavitt, who struggled throughout with a cold that left her battling to breathe properly, consolidated a significant overall lead and will take a close-to-unassailable, 28-minute lead into Saturday’s final 60 kilometres into Velddrif.
In the age group battles Thomas Lovemore takes a slender lead into the final stage over Tyron Maher whilst his brother Hamish leads the Under-18 boys contest from Emanuel Zaloumis with Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase controlling the Under-23 and Under-18 women’s battles respectively.
The weather conditions once again smiled kindly on the field of Berg aficionados, as the light early morning rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm in the warm and windless weather, after two days of unseasonably warm winter sunshine.
Saturday’s fourth and final stage of the Berg River Canoe Marathon is a 60km stage from Zoutkloof to Velddrif on the West Coast.
Pictures of McGregor and Russell courtesy of John Hishin/Gameplan Media
Results (day three, Bridgetown to Zoutkloof)
Stage times/Overall times
1 Hank McGregor 5:24.50 13:20.07
2 Simon van Gysen 5:31.10 13:27.44
3 Adrian Boros (HUN) 5:24.55 13:36.57
4 Graeme Solomon 5:31.11 13:43.39
5 Josh Kippin (AUS) 5:31.08 13:44.14
6 Edgar Boehm Jnr. 5:25.36 13:45.26
7 Petr Mojžíšek (CZE) 5:24.56 13:52.17
8 Brendon Rice (AUS) 5:41.50 13:54.52
9 Stu Maclaren 5:41.48 13:58.27
10 Louw van Riet 5:31.12 13:58.31
11 Gavin White 5:41.49 14:21.35
12 Paul Marais 5:41.49 14:23.42
13 Thomas Lovemore (U23) 5:55.34 14:37.20
14 Tyron Maher (U23) 5:59.05 14:38.54
15 Hamish Lovemore (U18) 5:57.05 14:38.55
16 Jermaine Pietersen 5:57.07 14:48.57
17 Emanuel Zaloumis (U18) 5:57.02 14:50.26
18 Joseph Williams 5:57.02 15:07.03
19 Anders Hart (U23) 6:01.10 15:07.49
20 Greg van Heerden 5:59.23 15:08.37
1 Bianca Beavitt 6:21.36 15:30.19
2 Nicole Russell 6:17.41 15:58.29
3 Jenna Ward (U23) 6:28.07 16:01.06
4 Kyeta Purchase (U18) 6:28.07 16:18.40
1 Thomas Lovemore 5:55.34 14:37.20
2 Tyron Maher 5:59.05 14:38.54
3 Anders Hart 6:01.10 15:07.49
1 Jenna Ward 6:28.07 16:01.06
1 Hamish Lovemore 5:57.05 14:38.55
2 Emanuel Zaloumis 5:57.02 14:50.26
3 Tristian Bernstein 6:17.40 15:56.27
1 Kyeta Purchase 6:28.07 16:18.40