Eleven-time World Marathon Champion Hank McGregor took control of the Berg River Canoe Marathon on Thursday’s Stage 2 from Zonquasdrift to Bridgetown, but he was not in control of things for much of the day and admitted to being a bit worried for a while.
The Team Euro Steel paddler opened up a solid lead of just over two minutes over the chasing pair of Thomas Lovemore and Jeremy Maher, with the final member of the leading group at the start of the day, David Evans, slipping more than four minutes further back.
McGregor now looks solidly on course for another South African K1 title that will go with the Berg River Marathon victory, but he had more than a few scares on Day 2 after repeatedly struggling to find the right channel and was “a couple of minutes behind” at one point in the day.
“I took quite a few wrong turns out there today and after making mistake after mistake before Gouda Bridge, I was a couple of minutes behind,” said McGregor on Wednesday afternoon.
“I think Jeremy had done his homework and knew where to go. I was only able to catch the leading group again just after Gouda and then we whittled the bunch down and eventually I took the right turn – after about 50 wrong ones – and was able to get away. From there I put my head down and I am just stoked to have built a bit of a cushion.
“Tomorrow (Friday) is not going to be pleasant. The forecast is for a 22-knot headwind so I am just trying to prepare myself mentally for a tough day.”
The remaining two days – the long 76km Day 3 from Bridgetown to Zoutkloof on Friday; and the final Day 4 to Veddrif on Saturday – will both be mass starts, which will suit McGregor perfectly. The defending champion can now sit on the group and watch the tactics play out, while his rivals have to decide whether to fight each other or look for an opportunity to jump away from 12-time race winner.
In the women’s race, Christy Shrimpton extended her 10-minute overnight lead by another three minutes and, like McGregor, is in a strong position to claim the SA Championship gold medal along with the 2023 Berg River Marathon title. Her nearest challenger remains Bianca Beavitt with Ansune Basson losing more time in third.
DAY 1: Selected Results
1 Hank McGregor 7:26:12 (4:12:18, 3:13:53)
2 Thomas Lovemore 7:28:29 (4:12:17, 3:16:12)
3 Jeremy Maher 7:28:29 (4:12:15, 3:16:13)
4 David Evans 7:33:06 (4:12:18, 3:20:48)
5 Jacques Theron 7:47:19 (4:18:03, 3:29:15)
6 Kenny Rice 7:47:19 (4:18:04, 3:29:15)
7 Daniel Jacobs 7:50:48 (4:18:04, 3:32:44)
8 Ant Lake 7:50:49 (4:18:02, 3:32:46)
9 Heinrich Schloms 7:59:44 (4:23:54, 3:35:50)
10 Dyllan Farrell 8:00:15 (4:27:02, 3:35:50)
1 Christy Shrimpton 8:53:59 (4:53:12, 4:00:46)
2 Bianca Beavitt 9:07:08 (5:03:01, 4:04:06)
3 Ansune Basson 9:41:25 (5:08:29, 4:32:55)