Friday, 14 February 2014

Dusi, Day 2: Birkett and Zondi speed up for the title

Birkett & Zondi made a solo race down the river. Photo: Twitter @AntStott
Undoubtly they were already favorites before the start of the race, but the superiority Andy Birkett and Sibonelo Zondi are showing in this year's Dusi Canoe Marathon only a few could imagine it yesterday morning at the start in Pietermaritzburg.

The beginning of this second stage, in mode of trial according to the times yesterday, saw Jasper Mocke and Hank McGregor pushing very hard from the start to try to reduce some of the disadvantage of 5'27" with the leaders. They managed to closed it to four and a half minutes, but like if Birkett and Zondi were waiting for their rivals to get tired, after the first two long portages they put the effort on the river and passing through the biggest rapids of the day, after the confluence of the Umgeni river with the Dusi, the put back the gap in five and a half minutes.

And from there, almost nothing more than just checking how slowly the lead gap growed in each control point or portage. At Nqumeni Hill, Birkett and Zondi returned to prove they are the best runners and set the gap over seven minutes. After negotiating fluently Hippo Rapid, where last year Birkett capsized and bent the rudder of his K1, they entered Inanda Dam for the last 15 kilometers of flatwater with 8'30" on McGregor and Mocke .

Beautiful view of the race. In the foreground, Ntondini and Cruickshanks . Photo: Twitter @ HansaattheDusi

Schoeman and Adam, paddling more than 15 minutes behind, retained their third place with more than two minutes on an endless stream of kayaks who were leaded by Mhlophe and Nzuza. However, gradually were getting closer to that group the meteorics Lance Kime and Thulani Mbanjwa, who started the stage in 17th place after their accident yesterday and entered Inanda dam already in 5th. In a magnificent effort, their comeback was reminding everybody that the race could have been different without their break at Witness Weir, as it seems that may have been rivals for Birkett and Zondi in the fight for the lead.

Anyway, the U23 marathon world champion and his partner did not plan to share their journey to Durban with anyone. With their perhaps unorthodox but effective paddling, they crossed the Inanda Dam to enter the finsih line in 2h57'02", almost 9 minutes ahead of McGregor and Mocke. Schoeman and Adam retained the third place, but in 5th arrived finally Kime and Mbanjwa with the second best time of the Day, 3 hours exactly.

In the women's race, everything was definitely tighter than in the men's one. The barely half minute separating Robyn Kime and Abbey Ulansky from Abby Adie and Anna Adamova stayed there for more than 20 kilometers. It even looked like at the entrance of Nqumeni Hill portage they could join again together. However, Kime and Ulansky soared uphill and started again to put seconds between them and their rivals.

This must have been devastating for Adie and Adamova, who saw their effort rewardless and the gap went to 1'48 " by Hippo Rapid and around four minutes at the entrance of Inanda Dam. But there, in the flatwater, the Czech made some difference and showed her marathon worldclass by pushing along with Adie for those around 50 minutes of glassy water and managed to enter the finish line just 1'35" from the leaders. This pressume some interesting race tomorrow, with also some flatwater at Blue Lagoon in Durban after some tough rapids on the river.

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