McGregor wins 50-miler
Former world marathon champion Hank McGregor won the Best 4 Healthcare 50-Miler canoe race for the first time in his stellar career on Sunday, beating Len Jenkins by nearly four minutes after the second and final stage in Durban.
Racing alone, McGregor completed the 36km final stage flawlessly and held off a concerted effort from a four-boat chasing pack.
McGregor went hard across the four kilometres dam leg and started to extend his overnight lead, but disaster struck when his entire store of juice drained on the portage around the Inanda dam wall.
He grabbed a bottle of liquid from his second and realised that he would have to nurse it throughout the race, held in humid conditions with a strong easterly headwind sapping the paddlers in the final 10km.
"The last time I raced in a K1 on this river was back in 2005, so I was learning the river as I went," said McGregor, who won the race in an overall time of four hours, 32 minutes, 57 seconds (4:32:57).
"Fortunately there were no major mistakes because I knew that the other guys were planning to work together to try and catch me."
Jenkins was caught by Andy Birkett, Cam Schoeman and Ant Stott, forming a four-boat chasing bunch, but Schoeman collided with a rock in the middle of the Tops needle rapid, nearly destroying his boat.
In the end it was left to Jenkins and Birkett, the leading Under-23 paddler, to fight it out for second place, which Jenkins took by a boat length.
The women's race fell to an exhausted Robyn Kime, who had to dig deep after blowing in the final stages and held off a resurgent Abby Adie.
"I was finished in the final few kays," said Kime, who defended the K1 title she won in 2010.
"I thought I was used to wind after training in Stellenbosch, but I have never paddled into a headwind like that."
Adie was left to play catch-up after being dropped in the bunch on Inanda dam, and she had to gamble to try and close down a one-and-a-half minute deficit by Tops.
Eventually she opted to shoot the notorious Island rapid, which Kime had portaged, and the race for the women's title came alive.
Adie joined a five-boat bunch that closed in on Kime who held on to win by 14 seconds in 5:12:39.
1 Hank McGregor 4:32:57 (2:22:20)
2 Len Jenkins 4:36:39 (2:29:26)
3 Andy Birkett 4:37:01 (2:28:57)
4 Cam Schoeman 4:39.32 (2:31:32)
5 Ant Stott 4:39:34 (2:31:46)
6 Lance Kime 4:43:53 (2:34:30)
7 Sbonelo Zondi 4:45:07 (2:34:03)
8 Thulani Mbanjwa 4:45;10 (2:34:29)
9 Murray Starr 4:45:17 (2:11:06)
10 Donavan Wewege 4:45:57 (2:34:15)
1 Robyn Kime 5:12:39 (2:48:44)
2 Abby Adie 5:12:53 (2:48:57)
3 Jen Theron 5:24:39 (2:53:36)
4 Hilary Pitchford 5:27:51 (2:54:26)
5 Brittany Petersen 5:37:29 (3:02:28)