Hank McGregor claims victory in first stage of Windhoek Berg
Zonquasdrift – Hank McGregor delivered a devastating solo demolition on the first stage of the Windhoek Berg River canoe marathon to take total charge of the 50th anniversary race by driving a six minute wedge between himself and the other title challengers.
McGregor was part of a four boat lead bunch going into Grensplaas roughly halfway into the 62km first stage from Paarl to Zonquasdrift when he started pulling away from co-leaders Heinrich Schloms, Pierre-Andre Rabie and Lance King.
Schloms was the first casualty and after the weir at Bothmas McGregor put the hammer down and broke away at the front, leaving the duo of King and Rabie trailing in his wake.
By the Safari hotspot at Hermon bridge he had a lead of three and a half minutes which mushroomed to five and three quarter minutes by the time he reached the bridge at Zonquasdrift.
“I am so stoked!” enthused the seven times winner of this race. “I have never had a lead like this after the first day, it is usually a sprint finish.”
“It was a brilliant day with the river at a great level and brilliant warm weather. The Cape really came to the party for the 50th anniversary celebrations.”
“The race is far from over,” cautioned McGregor. “Yes, I have a nice lead by there is so much that can happen over the next three days.”
A frustrated Lance King made a major error by assuming that there was a hotspot at the Wellington bridge and we wasted valuable energy by breaking away on his own to try and win the hotspot. He was reeled in by the three chasers shortly afterwards. “It was major, basic, amateur mistake,” he rued afterwards. “I was trying to stamp my authority on the race.”
Rabie was thrilled with his first stage performance, the Maties student posting his best ever first stage result. “Hank McGregor was just magnificent today,” he conceded.
The women’s race closely mirrored the men’s race with the two top contenders Michele Eray and Robyn Kime playing cat and mouse for the first two thirds of the stage. Eray, however, took matters into her own hands just above the Hermon bridge and broke away, determined to eek out a critical first stage lead.
She added a deadly final ninety minutes which yielded a massive lead of just under eight minutes over the defending champion.
“The end result is so exciting because I was feeling really bad before the start, and wasn’t going well for the first half of the day,” said Eray.
“I made a few minor mistake, ended up hugging a tree once and scraped my boat over a concrete slab when I took a wrong channel, but fortunately there was no damage done,” she added.
“The way the women’s race is set up, a lead on the first day is critical because we start in a batch together every day. There is no elapsed time start for the women. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to get defensive about the rest of my race.”
Kime was quick to concede that Eray had been superior on the day. She was being bothered by discomfort from her drinking system in the middle stages of the race and when she tried to adjust it she presented an opportunity for Eray to break away which she could not match.
Olympian Jen Hodson, who has just retired from her sprinting career, enjoyed a well paced day to finish third, showing the wear and tear from her first long distance race in many years. “It was such a long day that I just wanted to get it over and done with,” she said.
KwaZulu-Natal stars Donna Winter and Hillary Pitchford filled the next places on the leaderboard ahead of stalwart Jean Wilson, making a gutsy returning to competitive racing for the 50th anniversary celebration race.
The second stage is a 48km stage from Zonquasdrift to Bridgetown at the headwaters of Misverstand dam, the shortest stage of the 243km race to the West Coast.
More information can be found at www.windhoekberg.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
WINDHOEK BERG RIVER CANOE MARATHON
1.Hank McGregor 4:10.48
2.Pierre-Andre Rabie 4.16.31
3.Lance King 4:16.32
4.Jacques Theron 4:19.15
5.Graeme Solomon 4:19.19
6.Heinrich Schloms 4:19.26
7.Robbie Herreveld 4:22.04
8.Nick Longley 4:22.09
9.Edgar Boehm Jnr 4:22.10
10.Michael Stewart 4:22.10
11.Marc Holtzhausen 4:25.28
12.Gert van Deventer 4:28.27
13.Donnie Malherbe 4:28.30
14.Graham Montieth 4:31.05
15.Paul Marais 4:31.06
16.Ernest van Riet 4:31.07
17.Ian Trautmann 4:36.35
18.Tom Schilperoort 4:36.36
19.Mynhardt Marais 4:37.06
20.Chris de Waal 4:37.09
1.Michele Eray 4:45.13
2.Robyn Kime 4:53.13
3.Jen Hodson 4:55.02
4.Hilary Pitchford 4:59.39
5.Donna Winter 5:06.33
6.Jean Wilson 5:08.44
7.Angie Gafney 5:12.42
8.Robyn Henderson 5:23.03