In an exhilarating sprint to the finish line, Ivan Kruger and Graeme Solomon from Century City Canoe Club in the Western Cape outmanoeuvred their competitors on the first day of the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon to take a split second stage win over Czech duo Michael Odvarko and Kamil Mruzek. Close to one hundred paddlers got off to a smooth start in perfect weather conditions in Upington in the Northern Cape earlier this morning.
The Czech crew tried to stamp their authority on the race from the start and decided to take an early portage, which saw them leading the field and capturing the bridge prize in Upington. Tom Schilperoort and Stuart Maclaren finished third with Dusi dream team Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi in fourth position and the Swedish team of Emil Torstensson and Rasmus Jaruta completing the top five.
One of the pre-race favourites Louw van Riet paddling with Luke Stowman mentioned that it was a tough day on the water and that the rocky passage caused them to lose some time. They’ll be anxious to shorten the seven minute gap between them and the leaders.
With an elapsed time start on the second day, the front runners will be focusing on building a significant lead before the portage tomorrow as Mbanjwa and Zondi are renowned for their ferocious running pace. Day 2 will start at 09h00 from Keimoes. The 39-kilometre stage features five weirs, more rapids, two portages and a spectacular five-kilometre section through Neus Gorge.
River legend and Springbok paddler Willem van Riet is taking part with his son Willem Junior and loved the first day’s race. “There was actually more water than we expected and we had a lovely paddle.” The paddlers were met by cheering crowds of pupils from the Blaauskop school in Keimoes.
With only two pairs in the women’s race Kirsten Penderis and Bianca Beavitt took today’s stage with a 19th place overall. Janet Sinclair and Beth Burton were initially paddling in the mixed doubles, but they decided to team up this morning.
Follow the race as it unfolds on Facebook (Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon) and Twitter (@greenkalaharicm, #gkcm). The race website for route details is www.gkcm.co.za. Download visuals from gkcm.smugmug.com.