McGregor throws Drak wide open
Defending champion Hank McGregor has thrown the race for the 2013 Drak Challenge title wide open by announcing he will not defend his title when the 20th anniversary of the race starts on Saturday, January 19.
The Team Best star, who has won the last three editions of the 70km, two-day race on the upper Umzimkulu, has instead opted to travel to Australia to compete in the Perth Doctor surfski international.
"It's one of my favourite races, but I have shifted my focus for 2013, and the Perth Doctor is the first race on the international surfski series."
The 34-year-old Durbanite has made no bones about his desire to win the first every ICF surfski world championships in Europe later in the year. His last international surfski outing abroad ended in frustration when he had to scramble from behind to finish third in the Hong Kong Dragon Run.
McGregor's announcement has made waves in the elite river marathon community, as the double world champion has been able to dominate and dictate tactics in the popular race in recent years.
Six-time winner Ant Stott said the absence of McGregor from the field would open up the race and bring out the best in several other top paddlers.
"Every one of the paddlers on the start line is really strong and it will be just as tough at the front," said Stott.
McGregor has warned that team mate and training colleague Grant van der Walt was now the man to watch at the Challenge.
"He is going really well right now, and unlike many of the other top guys, he is not focusing on The Unlimited Dusi in February," McGregor said.
"In the last few years he has been the fastest over the second day, so if he can keep it together on the first day, this might be his year."