McGregor captures fifth Berg title

14 July 2008

Hank McGregor won a spirited end-sprint to clinch his fifth Isuzu Berg River Canoe Marathon title on a river swollen by the heavy rainfall that had flooded the region for the past fortnight.

The crowd at the finish at Velddrif saw McGregor outsprint Graeme Solomon to the line before hoisting a five-finger salute to celebrate becoming only the second paddler in history to win the overall race title five times.

Paarl's Donnie Malherbe wrapped up third place and the veteran's honours, Matie student Heinrich Schloms was fourth, and Gavin White wrapped up a solid final stage by sprinting with the leaders to secure fifth place.

Missed shortcut

A disconsolate Lance King had to settle for sixth after being dropped from the front bunch on the final stage. It was a tough race for him as he slipped from third at the halfway point after a brave solo breakaway on the third stage imploded when he missed a key shortcut, squandering four-and-a-half minutes.

King's sixth place also dramatically affected the outcome of the inaugural pro team competition, which was snatched on the final day by the Team Value Added Life, anchored by Solomon, Malherbe and Schloms, who filled positions two to four.

McGregor's Team USN had to settle for second - despite the fact that McGregor won every single bridge prize hot spot and each day's two-minute discount off his team's overall time - after King finished sixth and Pieter-Willem Basson in eleventh place overall.

Race record

Despite the very full and fast flowing river, McGregor's winning time was still shy of the race record, set by Graeme Solomon in 2001, over a slightly shortened course.

Abbey Miedema wrapped up her fourth title in the tough four-stage ultra-marathon, and her third in succession, when she completed a lightning fast final stage in 26th place overall.

Her eventual time was around 111% of Hank McGregor's winning time, earning her a substantial bonus, but it fell just short of earning her the equal prize money that had been offered for a 110% race time.

The 28-year-old went into the race cautiously, after openly stating that she preferred tough low Bergs to the many gambles and risks associated with racing on a flooded river.

Final stage

The final stage saw most of the field paddling over marshes that shortened the 56-kilometre stage by as much as 40%.

"Jeepers it was fast!" chuckled Miedema. "According to my GPS, we paddled just 35 kilometres today.

"We were paddling over fences, past silos and miles away from the main river," she added. "A lot of time we didn't really know where we were going, but it was so wide and open that it was easy to see the bunches ahead of you and follow the good lines."

She admitted that she and the others around her had survived a scare when it looked like they were heading into a dead-end channel. "Suddenly we were right in the thick of some trees, but we managed to find our way back to the main river without losing too much time.

A 'cheat'

"It was such a different Berg," Miedema said. "In some ways it feels like a bit of a 'cheat' Berg because it was so fast and the days were so short on the full river, compared to the last eight Bergs."

Miedema paddled much of the day with university student Abie Adie as she preserved her massive half-hour lead. Third place went to Jemma Hofmeyer following the withdrawal of Lindi-May Harmsen on the third stage.

Harmsen injured her shoulder on the second day, and after battling through the early part of the third stage, opted out of the race to ensure that her challenge for the World Marathon Championships in the Czech Republic would not be adversely affected by the risk of aggravating the injury.

Age group winners

The junior title went to under-16 Milnerton scholar Ivan Kruger, who dominated the boys' race. Joseph Williams and Hannes Pienaar finished second and third respectively.

Mynhardt Marais was the first sub-master across the line, with Gauteng's Brian Longley taking the grand master's honours head of the first master home, Paul Lange.

Cally Henderson paddled her way into the history books by becoming the first female master paddler to complete the race when she reached the finish at Velddrif Bridge.

RESULTS

MEN

    1. Hank McGregor 13:20.09
    2. Graeme Solomon 13:20.43
    3. Donnie Malherbe 13:29.39
    4. Heinrich Schloms 13:33.20
    5. Gavin White 13:34.53
    6. Lance King 13:36.48
    7. Pierre-Andre Rabie 13:41.03
    8. Ernest van Riet 13:43:27
    9. Angus McIntosh 13:46.41
    10. Ian Trautmann 13:49.39

WOMEN

    1. Abbey Miedema 14:55.06 (26th overall)
    2. Abie Adie 15:18.29
    3. Jemma Hofmeyer 16:16.21
    4. Lisa Scott 16:43.13
    5. Janet Vorster 17:46.11

Source: Isuzu Berg River Canoe Marathon

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Hank McGregor gives a five-finger salute to celebrate his fifth win in the Isuzu Berg River Canoe Marathon (Photo: Isuzu Berg River Canoe Marathon)

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