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Zondi hangs on to Dusi lead with a day to race
- Updated: February 15, 2013
Day two of the 2013 The Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon produced one of the most enthralling day’s racing in the history of the race as a day of high drama and action a plenty saw the race lead change no less than four times as the race’s top 10 received a complete shake-up.
Still, the fairytale for overnight leader Sbonelo Zondi continued his remarkable race at the front, claiming his second consecutive stage victory.
Despite seeing his 20-second overnight lead disintegrate in front of him within the first two kilometres, catching back up only to then lose his again and be 45 seconds behind Andy Birkett at Gauging Weir, Zondi remained calm throughout and regained his position at the front of the field midway through the 45km affair after Birkett was forced to stop at Marianni Foley causeway to replace his rudder.
Zondi powered on and with the pressure on, Birkett then suffered a potentially race ending mishap at the notorious Tombi Rapid where a nasty swim and then further rudder wheel trouble cost him vital minutes, also allowing third place and Team Best 4 Kayak Centre team mate Lance Kime through into second whilst Hank McGregor, who started fifth behind Thulani Mbanjwa but moved up with a kilometre of the start, also passed Birkett for third.
Despite all the drama going on behind him Zondi remained focused on his primary goal ÔÇô giving it his all and making as few mistakes as possible ÔÇô and powered to a historic second stage victory with the overall race title all to play for going into day three of the iconic three day event.
“I’m obviously very happy with my result from today,” said Zondi. ÔÇ£Andy (Birkett) started just behind me and caught me not long after the start but I just tried to stay calm and keep going. Andy was opening a gap at Gauging Weir but when I saw him change his rudder I knew I had to go for it and I put the hammer down all the way to the finish.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ÔÇ£Tombi (Rapid) was very big and I came close to falling out but managed to hang on and just kept going. Tomorrow is going to be a very big day and I will try my best to try keep my gap over Lance Kime.ÔÇØ
Having been gifted an opportunity by Birkett shortly after the confluence of the uMsundusi and uMngeni Rivers and with renewed energy and motivation Kime set about closing the gap between himself and race leader Zondi as best he could before the day two finish line at Inanda Dam.
As he headed under the bridge at the headwaters of the dam Kime started his grind some two minutes back and a spirited effort from the Under-23 youngster saw slowly reeling in a tiring Zondi, eventually finishing a little over a minute behind and with plenty to play for in what promises to be an enthralling third and final day.
ÔÇ£When I set off at the start today I really didn’t think I would catch Andy. He just doesn’t make mistakes,ÔÇØ said Kime. ÔÇ£So, when I came through Tombi and saw Andy swimming, I had a jolt of excitement and its always easier to push hard when you know there’s only one person ahead of you!
ÔÇ£As soon as I got onto the dam all I could think about was trying to catch Sbonelo and I wasn’t even aware that Hank (McGregor) was going really well behind me.ÔÇØ
McGregor, having set the fastest time of the day by three and a half minutes and having also been a beneficiary of Birkett’s splash, made his way up from fifth position at the start of the day into third overall and ready to jump at any chance the two in front of him may offer on day three.
ÔÇ£The first 30 minutes or so were absolute hell. It was pretty low and we kept having to bump over the rocks. Once we got to Confluence it was a big relief. I was much happier and was able to really work quite hard at catching the guys in front of me,ÔÇØ said McGregor.
ÔÇ£I came past Andy and I knew how he must have been feeling. It’s a really dangerous area to be playing in. I’ve come pipe in situations like that before so I know how easily it can happen.
ÔÇ£The big water was always going to play an important part of my race so I took a couple of calculated risks and they paid off for me.
ÔÇ£Tomorrow is going to be an interesting one. It’s always difficult chasing. You’ve just got to put your head down and go for it. Everything is hurting but anything can happen. You can make a mistake so easily no matter who you are, as we saw with Andy today, but hopefully that won’t be me tomorrow and I’ll just try do my best and see how things go.ÔÇØ
Having had a day of both emotional extremes triple defending champ Birkett (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) managed to pull himself together and recovered remarkably after his mishaps to catch and pass Thulani Mbanjwa to finish fourth overall, five and a half minutes behind Zondi.
One of the results of the day saw the vastly experienced and four-times Dusi winner Ant Stott storm through the field moving up from 11th place overnight to sixth going into the final stage.
ÔÇ£Today was great for me. The plan was to hit the shallow water hard and then be a bit conservative on the big water. I had a great paddle with no mistakes.
ÔÇ£I think experience definitely played quite a big part today. I had a few tricks up my sleeve which helped me get ahead of one or two guys.ÔÇØ
Cam Schoeman, Stott’s former world marathon champ partner, also shook things up as he soared into the top 10, finishing seventh having started in 14th whilst double K2 winner Jason Graham also gained a couple of positions on his way to eighth position with Zonele Nzuza and Gauteng’s Loveday Zondi rounding out the top ten.
Former Olympic sprinter Shaun Rubenstein also had a positive upward shift on day two as he went from thirty-fourth to nineteenth, a vast improvement after day one’s pedal mishap.
Under-18 Maritzburg College youngster Travis Wilson continued his fantastic day one form as he lept from second to the front of the junior boys race as he opened a gap of over six minutes over his nearest rival, overnight leader Damon Stamp, and in the process claiming a remarkable top 20 position as he finished 16th overall.
With the final day’s changed start sequence, which will see batches B and below start departing Inanda Dam from 5.30am onwards and the leaders in elapsed time and A batch only departing from 11am onwards, the cat really has been thrown amongst the proverbial pigeon and there is everything to play for as paddlers head for Durban’s Blue Lagoon.
The third and final stage of The Unlimited Dusi takes place on Saturday from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon.
DAY TWO RESULTS (stage and overall time)
1 Sbonelo Zondi 3:00.25 5:43.42
2 Lance Kime (U23) 2:59.24 5:44.50
3 Hank McGregor 2:55.52 5:46.55
4 Andy Birkett (U23) 3:05.42 5:49.19
5 Thulani Mbanjwa 3:01.32 5:52.25
6 Ant Stott 3:02.13 6:00.26
7 Cam Schoeman 3:03.58 6:04.57
8 Jason Graham 3:07.51 6:04.59
9 Loveday Zondi 3:13.05 6:09.57
10 Zonele Nzuza 3:14.31 6:09.58
11 Michael Odvarko 3:08.32 6:10.4
12 Jacques Theron 3:05.58 6:10.4
13 Len Jenkins 3:15.27 6:10.4
14 Siseko Ntondini (U23) 3:10.59 6:13.1
15 Gavin Shuter (U23) 3:05.10 6:13.1
16 Travis Wilson (U18) 3:08.15 6:13.1
17 Murray Starr (U23) 3:05.00 6:13.1
18 Lucas Mthalane 3:15.16 6:16.5
19 Shaun Rubenstein 3:07.40 6:16.5
20 Banesti Nkhoesa (U23) 3:11.15 6:16.58
1 Lance Kime 2:59.24 5:44.50
2 Andy Birkett 3:05.42 5:49.19
3 Siseko Ntondini 3:10.59 6:13.11
1 Travis Wilson 3:08.15 6:13.13
2 Damon Stamp 3:13.34 6:19.32