Friday, 7 December 2012

McGregor sets an appointment with Dusi after a great victory at the 50 Miler

Water level was perfect this year. Photo Darren Goddard (Cycho Media)
After seven years Hank McGregor was coming back to race the 50 Miler, which takes place over stages 2 and 3 of the Dusi Unlimited, the big race of the South African summer. McGregor, who lives and trains in Durban, place of arrival of both races, has always found more difficult to win at home than anywhere else in the world. The long portages are often a handicap difficult to compensate in the river. But maybe the fact that the water level was perfect this last weekend and that the organizers decided to open for paddling some sections that are of compulsory portage in the Dusi, have been factors that have played a chance for McGregor this time.

On Saturday, McGregor wanted from the very start to make clear that he was going for victory, setting a very strong pace that only could be followed by Len Jenkins, Andrew Birkett and the young Don Wewege, but it didn't take very long before Jenkins and McGregor, that in absence of Grant van der Walt were then the clear favorites, decided it was time to push a little more to let Wewege and Birkett fall back.

However, passing through Yellow Rock, Jenkins hit a couple of rocks that made him lose the good line, allowing McGregor to come out of the rapid with a 15 second lead and he pushed very hard to go for victory in the first stage with a two and a half minutes difference.

Behind, Birkett and Wewege were paying for those first kilometres in the front bunch and were overcome by Stott and Schoeman. They were playing a great comeback and arrived to the finish line just 30 seconds after Jenkins.. 

Meanwhile, the women's race was a duel between the U23 world silver medalist Robyn Kime and Abby Adie, who collaborated ahead once they saw how Jen Theron and Hilary Pitchford were not able to follow the pace and were condemmed to fight for the third place. Both Kime and Adie decided not to take risks and let the battle for victory for the second stage, focusing on the first stage to get the biggest possible gap with their rivals.

The second stage was presented to McGregor as a pursuit race where he was the hare. Almost two hours and a half alone with about 10 kilometres of flatwater before the finish line at Durban, while behind Jenkins, Stott, Schoeman and Birkett joined into one group in which they were working in relays to try to catch the leader. Also, things did not look good when in the portage of Inanda Dam wall, McGregor realized his lifevest drink bottle was broken and had lost all the liquid, so it had to cope with high humidity and strong headwind that blew across the stage rationing the juice bottle that he could grab during the portage.

McGregor gave no option to rivals in his first 50 miler after seven years. Photo: Darren Goddard (Cycho Media)
However, McGregor showed his world class and not only he wasn't catched, but also set again the best time, which gave him the win by more than three minutes. Behind, collaboration in the chase group was broken when Cameron Schoeman collided spectacularly with a rock at Top Needles rapid, where he almost destroyed the boat. He managed to keep going, but Jenkins and Birkett had already opened a significant gap and eventually reached the finish together to complete the podium, with Jenkins second in the final sprint and Birkett third, first U23. Behind, Schoeman catched Stott and both came to fight for fourth place, that finally went to Schoeman.

Concerning the girls, Kime and Adie started together and made the first kilometres on the flatwater of Inanda Dam within a group with senior men who set a pace too strong for Abby Adie and she fell back to fight alone in the stretch of river where shlost up to a minute and a half. However, at Islands Rapids Adie kept paddling through while Kime portaged, so the race became again interesting for the last 10 kilometers. There it was Robyn Kime who was paddling alone against the very strong wind from the East, while Adie did manage to join a group of five kayaks that were gradually closing the gap with Kime. However, these ten kilometers were as long for Kime as short for Adie. In an exciting final, Kime claimed victory by just twelve seconds. Several minutes later came in third place the Olympian Jen Theron, who beated Hilary Pitchford in the fight to get on the podium.

All results can checked at this link.

No comments:

Post a Comment