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Hank, Michele stay tops
- Updated: July 16, 2011
A day of ferocious team tactics on Friday’s arduous 76km third stage of the Windhoek Berg River canoe marathon set up Hank McGregor and Mich├¿le Eray for victories in the 50th anniversary of the four-day race from Paarl to the West Coast.
McGregor had almost seven minutes in the bank going into the batch start on the headwaters on Misverstand dam, and was determined to make the longest stage of the race count for his four-member team.
By the time they had reached the portage around the Misverstand dam wall McGregor and team-mates Pierre-Andre Rabie and Marc Holtzhausen were fanning the flames of a furious paced charge at the front that left third-placed Jacques Theron lagging more than a minute behind.
The breakaway at the front consolidated through to the Piketberg Tourism/Bergmun bridge prize at the Moravia low level bridge, which McGregor bagged comfortably to keep a clean sweep of all three bridge prizes so far contested in the race.
Shortly after that McGregor was not content to sit in the bunch and with around 15km to go he took off alone after the portage around the low level bridge, to complete the 76km stage in five hours and nine minutes.
“I guess I didn’t have to go it alone but I wanted to prove a point,” said McGregor. “I have never been able to break away alone on the third stage so it was another first for me.”
McGregor was controlling a massive 20-boat bunch at the front on Misverstand dam, and wanted to trim that down before the race moved onto the narrower reaches of the river. “We played a game of chess, moving the pieces around and putting in a few intervals and the group broke up nicely to about six,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure that our team was looked after, so we ran a brilliant portage,” said McGregor. “I went the usual route, and collected bananas and juice, while Marc Holtzhausen ran a brilliant run down a different line, and when we got going our three paddlers were at the front.”
McGregor’s only hitch came off-the-water when his girlfriend and second Pippa suffered a blow-out while driving to a seconding point late in the third stage. She abandoned her vehicle and hitched a ride to the finish to be able to provide McGregor with the fluids and recovery provisions he needed.
“Now I’ve got to go back, find the car and change the wheel,” said am amused McGregor.
Lance King erased the nightmarish memories of the first two stages with a gutsy paddle to join the three front runners, and then to break away alone to secure second on the day, and in the process leapfrogged from sixth to third overall.
He had to struggle back to the front after a collision with Heinrich Schloms at the Misverstand dam wall portage that tipped his kayak, forcing him to have to empty his boat before the run. “The sense of relief is huge,” said King. “In the last few kilometres I was feeling so good, and it felt like the old me was coming back.”
Maties student Pierre-Andre Rabie remains on track for his best ever Berg result with a third on the stage, and remains second overall.
He had to battle with a leaking boat after a bump in a rocky section that opened a small split in his kayak, compounded by the failure of his pump that left him with a boat gradually filling with water.
The women’s race is now solidly in the steely grasp of Michele Eray, who mushroomed her overnight lead from 10 to 18 minutes over defending champion Robyn Kime.
“Just after the low level bridge portage I got a gap and went and Robyn Kime and Jen Hodson didn’t come with me so I went at my own pace,” said Eray. “It seems like all this extra training is paying off now!”
Kime was followed home by sprinter Jen Hodson, with Hillary Pitchford and Jean Wilson, the seven times champ of the 90’s in fifth.
The team competition played a major role in the third stage racing, with the first three paddlers in each team counting towards the final score. McGregor’s team has taken a bold step closer to the R60 000 team prize with Pierre-Andre Rabie and Marc Holtzhausen all in the top ten. Their strongest challenge will come from the Gauteng team of Jacques Theron, Robbie Herreveld, Mike Stewart and Graeme Monteith.
Saturday’s final stage is a 62km leg from Zoutkloof to Port Owen in Velddrif, which gets under way at 7:30am on Saturday morning.
DAY THREE (STAGE TIMES AND OVERALL TIMES)
1 Hank McGregor 5:09.56 12:36.57
2 Pierre-Andre Rabie 5:13.14 12:47.07
3 Lance King 5:11.45 12:50.52
4 Jacques Theron 5:18.14 12:55.17
5 Heinrich Schloms 5:18.13 12:55.17
6 Graeme Solomon 5:20.47 12:59.40
7 Robbie Herreveld 5:18.12 13:01.59
8 Edgar Boehm Jnr 5:20.46 13:04.33
9 Michael Stewart 5:29.05 13:12.59
10┬á Marc Holtzhausen 5:13.41 13:14.06
11 Nick Longley 5:29.06 13:18.04
12┬á Tom Schilperoort 5:18.15 13:22.46
13 Donnie Malherbe 5:29.03 13:25.08
14 Gert van Deventer 5:31.13 13:27.19
15 Paul Marais 5:31.13 13:31.40
16 Graham Montieth 5:32.54 13:33.18
17 Ian Trautmann 5:32.53 13:41.21
18 Ernest van Riet 5:38.31 13:41.25
19 Mynhardt Marais 5:38.27 13:42.59
20 Andrew Birkett 5:31.12 13:49.17
1 Michele Eray 5:48.45 14:11.58
2 Robyn Kime 5:56.12 14:29.50
3 Jen Hodson 6:04.41 14:44.41
4 Hilary Pitchford 6:09.41 15:02.33
5 Donna Winter 6:13.49 15:19.21
6 Jean Wilson 6:13.49 15:21.18
7 Angie Gafney 6:20.44 15:36.26
8 Robyn Henderson 6:27.02 15:56.04
9 Natascha Bracale 7:01.15 17:52.54