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Hank, Michele win Berg
- Updated: July 17, 2011
Hank McGregor romped home to a record eighth victory in the Windhoek Berg River Canoe marathon on Saturday, while Michele Eray completed a peerless domination of the women’s race to win her maiden title in the tough four-day race from Paarl to Velddrif.
“I am super stroked,” said McGregor. “I have raced all over the world and there is no doubt at all that this is the toughest race on the planet.”
“To win against the field of legends that has been assembles this year is a real privilege for me,” said McGregor. “It’s right up there with the best of my wins.”
Sport24.com reports that McGregor started the 62-kilometre final stage from Zoutkloof to the coastal resort of Port Owen in Velddrif with a 10-minute lead, and dominated a four-boat bunch that finished together to wrap up the victory.
The win was particularly sweet for McGregor because after asserting his authority on each of the first three stages, he elected to race away on his own to truly stamp his authority on the race when he would have been fully justified to paddle in a bunch and preserve his lead.
“I guess I was out to prove a point by pushing it at the front,” said McGregor. “It wasn’t always like that. On the final stage I found myself sixty metres behind the guys, and they were pushing the pace, and I had to grind back onto the bunch.”
Maties student Pierre-Andre wrapped the race of his canoeing career with a well-deserved second, and heaped praise on the eight times champion.
“Hank didn’t just win it, he won it in style,” said Rabie, whose flawless race was tribute to his determine training and diligent work scouting the river.
Lance King finished the four-day race on a high, racing on the front bunch to wrap up third place, erasing the nightmare of the closing stages on day two when a mistake in the trees above Misverstand dam that saw him separated from his kayak and paddle and tumbling from second to a distant sixth.
“It was about time I had some good karma after the dramas of the first two days,” said a clearly relieved King, who has finished second in the two previous editions of the race. “This was the toughest Berg I have ever been involved in,” he added.
Plettenberg Bay based Olympian Michele Eray raised the bar of female Berg racing with a rampant 20-minute victory over double defending champion Robyn Kime. On each of the stages she started the day alongside Kime and lightning fast sprinter Jen Hodson,┬ábefore gradually whittling away her adversaries and then, not unlike McGregor, racing away alone.
“I was out to see how far up the field I could finish against the men’s field that had the benefit of racing together in groups with paddlers of similar ability,” said Eray. “The changes to the women’s rules are a huge step in the right direction, but maybe there are ways we can tweak the race structure to get the women more involved with the guys who paddle as fast as we do.”
“The win is massive for me,” she added. “I had set my heart on winning this race, and to do it in the 50th anniversary is really special. It was brilliant racing against such a strong women’s field as well.”
“Mich (Eray) was brilliant throughout the whole race,” said Kime.
Jen Hodson eventually finished well off the pace in third, after a gutsy performance after entering the race two weeks beforehand, after her sudden retirement from sprinting. “I played with the big girls and they beat me up!” she said.
The team race was thrown wide open on the final stage with the sudden withdrawal of Hank McGregor’s team mate Marc Holtzhausen. The Durban stalwart who paddled a heroic third stage eventually could not continue due to severe pain from the blisters on both hands.
With three team members counting towards the lucrative team prize, the pressure fell on Mynhardt Marais, who was well off the front bunch’s pace. Marais finished 16th over, but when combined with McGregor and Rabie’s podium finishes it was just enough to get his team home against the potent Trueb Kitchens team and the Gauteng Veterans.
The race’s 50th anniversary was celebrated by a record field of over 350 paddlers, and enjoyed four days of unseasonably warm clear days on a medium level Berg river.
In amongst the finishers were a number of paddlers from the inaugural race in 1962, including former champions Willem van Riet and Jannie Malherbe. The boat that won that inaugural race, dubbed “Kelkiewyn” was also successfully paddled to the finish by Lionel “Lonkie” Ekermans.
Day four times and overall results
1 Hank McGregor 4:22.27 16:59.25
2 Pierre Andre Rabie 4:22.32 17:09.40
3 Lance King 4:22.31 17:13.24
4 Heinrich Schloms 4:24.11 178:19.29
5 Jacques Theron 4:24.12 17:19.29
6 Graeme Solomon 4:22.32 17:22.12
7 Robbie Herreveld 4:24.10 17:26.10
8 Edgar Boehm Jnr 4:36.13 17:40.47
9 Tom Schilperoort 4:24.13 17:46.59
10 Mike Stewart 4:38.42 17:51.36
11 Donnie Malherbe 4:36.07 18:01.15
12 Nick Longley 4:48.00 18:06.04
13 Paul Marais 4:36.11 18:07.51
14 Graham Monteith 4:40.13 18″13.32
15 Ian Trautmann 4:38.40 18:20.02
16 Mynhardt Marais 4:40.12 18:23.12
17 Andrew Birkett 4:36.10 18:25.28
18 Gert van Deventer 4:58.46 18:26.06
19 Chris de Waal 4:38.41 18:28.38
20 Ernst van Riet 4:47.17 18:28.43
1 Michele Eray 4:54.03 19:06.02
2 Robyn Kime 4:56.10 19:26.00
3 Jen Hodson 5:16.46 20:01.28
4 Hillary Pitchford┬á 5:20.21 20:22.54
5 Jean Wilson 5:19.27 20:40.45