Birkett claims Berg stage in bare feet

2014-07-19 00:00

ZOUTKLOOF — His feet might have been cold, but when the pace heated up Dusi champion Andy Birkett didn’t get cold feet.

The KwaZulu-Natal paddler, competing with bare feet in the cold, wet and rain, won the third stage of the Berg River Marathon yesterday with a strong final dash.

The 23-year-old won the second stage in similar fashion on Thursday.

He starts today’s final stage, 58,7 km to Velddrif on the West Coast, with a slender 10-second lead.

Second and third are Cape paddlers Graeme Solomon, who was three seconds behind Birkett yesterday, and Simon van Gysen 17 seconds behind yesterday.

These three and defending champion Lance King, who fell behind on day one because of cramps, worked together yesterday.

The last 10 km was paddled into a strong headwind.

Birkett said he passed a second without picking up his hydration bottle. “I was too scared the other guys would pass me.

“My feet got very cold,” he said, trying to warm the one on the other at the finish.

“It was a very tough stage and I learnt today that paddling 20 km a day while training for the Berg is just not enough.”

It is his first Berg in six years.

Today’s stage has fewer obstacles and can suit a strong paddler like the under 23 world champion.

The 41-year-old Solomon said it is crucial not to make any mistakes on the final day. “Today’s stage was long. It’s not easy to paddle to five and a half hours in difficult conditions like these,” he said.

Jasper Mocké, the highly regarded Fish Hoek sea paddler, who is undertaking his first Berg, let his paddle do the talking on the Misverstand dam early yesterday, but couldn’t catch the leaders.

He paid a steep price for his efforts, finishing six minutes behind the leaders in overall fourth place, a full nine minutes behind Birkett.

“After I fell behind [on Thursday], I had to try something like that,” he said.

He was up with the lead group at the portage near the low-water bridge at Moravia, but when he put back in, he didn’t get his boat back into the main flow of the river.

“From there they dropped me,” said Mocké. On day two, he got tangled up in low-hanging trees and lost time.

Abbie Adie is still leading the women’s race.

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