Jasper Mocké and his partner Stu MacLaren bounced back from a mishap at Secunda weir and then took full advantage of a rare tactical error by Graeme Solomon and Greg Low to snatch the overnight line honours on the first stage of the Breede River Canoe Marathon on Saturday.
Locked in a three-boat duel that included the classy brothers Kenny and Sean Rice, the leading trio approached a low level bridge two kilometres from the end of the 38km opening stage from McGregor bridge in Robertson to Bonnievale, knowing that the low river conditions would force the paddlers to portage the final obstacle.
Solomon, who has won this premier K2 title five times, made a snap decision to head to the right-hand-side of the bridge for the short portage, while Mocké and MacLaren and the Rice siblings took the faster option on the left.
The Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling duo of Mocké and MacLaren pounced on the opportunity to race away to the finish line to claim the overnight lead, and with it the psychological advantage of starting the 33 kilometre final stage to Kam’bati Resort at the front of elapsed time.
The hot end sprint at the end of a tough stage raced on a low Breede River was too much for the Rice brothers, who fell off the bunch, leaving Solomon (Bamboo Warehouse/Knysna Racing) and Louw (Knysna Racing Merrell) finishing second, seventeen seconds adrift.
“It was a snap decision to go right at the portage,” said Louw. “Right was not right though, and we saw Jasper (Mocké) and Stu (MacLaren) take off for the finish line,” said Louw.
While the drama of the final two kilometres dominated talk at the overnight stop at Riggton Farm, it was in fact the remarkable comeback from capsizing at the big drop at Secunda Weir that set up the stage win for Mocké and MacLaren.
“It was a silly swim,” said Mocké. “Maybe I was surprised by how high the drop was!
“The other two boats took off when we swam, but we managed to do a surfski re-entry in the middle of the river that cost us only twenty seconds. But we had a boat full of water, and the other two knew that and made it count,” said Mocké.
Mocké knows that their overnight lead is small, and he will have to keep his tactical options open on the final stage.
“It is tricky! I have tried to be a bit of a thorn in Solly’s [Graeme Solomon] side, because he knows this river so well. The river is low but we will try to extend the small lead we have, but if it looks like we are banging our heads against a brick wall, we might leave it to the end sprint,” said Mocké.
“We will have to see who actually rocks up tomorrow,” he added.
The women’s title race has been controlled by the KwaZulu-Natal crew of Abby Solms (Euro Steel) and Ronel Stevens. After a quick start in the mêlée of the combined elite men’s and women’s A Batch, their main chasers Robyn Henderson and Jane Swarbreck saw their challenge sink with a swim at the Secunda Weir.
“We combined really well,” said Solms of her partnership with her Camps Drift training cell partner Stevens. “We kept looking back to see where the other women were but never really saw them.
“The seven minute lead is really handy, and I hope we can put it all together again tomorrow,” she added.
Bianca Beavitt, who is using the outing as training for the World Marathon Championships later in the month, was the second female paddler home, and the second K1 paddler overall, just a few seconds behind overall singles leader Gavin White.
The race is doubling as the SA K3 Championships, which is resting in the grip of the trio of Kyle Friedenstein, Bevan Manson and Andrew Carter overnight, after blitzing a six-minute lead over Richard Kohler, Mike Schwan and Richard Allen.
The 2016 Breede River Canoe Marathon, which doubles as the 2016 South African K3 Marathon Championships, takes place from Robertson to Swellendam Saturday and Sunday.
Summary of results
Stage One (37km Robertson to Bonnievale)
1.Jasper Mocké/Stu MacLaren 2:27:06
2.Graeme Solomon/Greg Louw 2:27:23
3.Sean Rice/Kenny Rice 2:28:14
4.PW Basson/Lance King 2:34:06
5.Brandon van der Walt/Hamish Mackenzie 2:34:07
6.Tyrone Maher/Edgar Boehm 2:34:08
7.Phillip Smith/Joseph Williams 2:34:09
8.Heinrich Schloms/John de Villiers 2:40:59
9.Daan du Toit/Hennie du Plooy 2:42:08
10.Peter Cole/Rob Hart 2:42:10
1.Abby Solms/Ronel Stevens 2:50:23
2.Bianca Beavitt 2:51:22
3.Robyn Henderson/Jane Swarbreck 2:57:22
1.Kyle Friedenstein/Andrew Carter/Bevan Manson 2:33:54
2.Richard Kohler/Mike Schwan/Richard Allen 2:39:31
3.Dale Lewis/Anthony Wolstenholm/Jan Venter 2:42:36
– African News Agency (ANA)