Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Balboa and Guerrero set the first Stone at Río Negro Regatta

Balboa and Guerrero lead the race after Day 2. Photo: rionegro.com.ar
Last Saturday, a new edition of the Río Negro Regatta (ARG) started with the first stage between Neuquen and General Roca, of 46 km. With the withdrawal of the Río Negro kings, Néstor Pinta and Martín Mozzicafredo, after their 12th victory on a row in 2013, several couples aim this year to sit on their empty throne.

With the usual heat (races start at 3PM) and a slightly shallower river than in former editions, paddlers must take care of their strenght if the want to go all the way down through the Patagonia until arriving in Viedma next saturday. In fact, after two stages, times are about 15 minutes higher than last year over the same course.

There were five couples commanding the race in K2 from the start of Day 1: Franco Balboa and José Guerrero, Santiago Scalesi and Luis Amado Pérez (ESP), Agustín Reyes and Guillermo di Renzo, Juan Manuel Scalesi and Julián Algañaraz and, finally, brothers Mauricio and Rodrigo Caffa.

But as it happened last year, the front bunch managed to heat up the race from the first strokes, and not only because of the strong paddling. During the whole stage, it seems to have been continuous fight between the different pairs, resulting in the Caffa brothers with a broken boat and forced to withdraw. After traveling 1,400 km to participate, their race lasted just over 15 minutes.

At the finish line, a situation that is becoming common in Río Negro and it seems difficult to sort out, since the first canoes, after turning to go for the finish line upstream, they said not being able to see where it was located, so they did not know exactly where to end their sprint. Still, youngsters Balboa and Guerrero did not give a chance and went half boat ahead of Scalesi and Pérez, while di Renzo and Reyes arrived just a few meters behind .

After arrival , again heated tempers, with angry statements of the top paddlers blaming each other for the continuous friction. Franco Balboa charged against the Scalesi brothers, even accusing them of grabbing his boat a couple of times during the race. "This can not go on like this, there are people who are damaging the image of this competition. The Scalesis are just unpresentable" declared angrily remembering how last year also became involved in several incidents that ended with official complaints to the officials.

The K1s also had a group race in the top four contestants, but in the last kilometers Gastón Gaona, one of the favorites, lost contact and victory went to Alfredo Quiñanao ahead of Sebastián Leyes and Matías Salvo.

On Sunday, the second stage went over 59 km between General Roca and Villa Regina. As in the previous day, four K2s made the front group (remember that the Caffa brothers didn't finish the first stage) and again a new victory at the sprint for Balboa and Guerrero, who beated Santiago Scalesi and Luis Amado Pérez, second, and Juan Manuel Scalesi and Julián Algañaraz. On this occasion, the sprint left out of the podium Reyes and di Renzo.

Although the stage was more calmed, thanks to the presence of an official's boat during all the way, the exchange of accusations between Balboa and Scalesi continued, with Balboa noticing that this time they were able to make a clean paddle because the Scalesis were frightened by the presence of the judges in the boat, while Santiago Scalesi accused Balboa of having broken the K2 of the Caffas the day before and being the whole race insulting and bumping the rest of paddlers. "There's no way of paddling with this kid around" he said.

In K1, Alfredo Quiñanao also repeated  victory, but this time he did it closely followed by Gastón Gaona, who had lost precious time in the first stage. This time was Sebastián Leyes who took a swim and lost about three minutes, making Quiñanao able to get a lead of over a minute on Gaona in the overall standings.

Stages and overall standings can be seen at this link.

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