McGregor looks to shake off ‘bridesmaid’ title at Drak Challenge

2010-02-10 00:00

UNDERBERG — Tough Durban paddler Hank McGregor has added his entry to the top-class field that is assembling for the Global Trader Dra­kensberg Challenge canoe marathon on February 27 and 28, desperate to shake of the “bridesmaid” title that has dogged him throughout his senior career.

“The Drak is one of those races that I have never managed to win, despite trying really hard a number of times,” said McGregor. “I have had enough of the ‘bridesmaid’ stuff — that belongs in weddings — and I would love to win the title this year.”

McGregor’s attempts to win the race have been derailed by a spate of errors and disasters on the river in recent years.

He finished second to Ant Stott in 2005, after making a mistake in the Lower Gorge, and then scuttled a title bid in 2006 by capsizing in Glenhaven rapid while racing Len Jenkins. In 2007, the last time the race hosted the SA K1 River champs, McGregor fi­nished third just behind Jacques Theron in a race won by German superstar Max Hoff.

Last year, McGregor’s race ended unceremoniously when his boat fol­ded at Taylor’s weir early on in the first stage, ending what promised to be a thrilling dice with Ant Stott.

“I have never had a good Drak,” he added. “There has been plenty of bad luck along the way, but that’s river racing for you. I reckon this will be my year for that all to change.”

McGregor has been posting some startling times to back up that claim. Early in February he broke the Stella club time trial record in a K1, in a keen race with training partners Grant and Brandon van der Walt, Marc Holtzhausen and Wayne Wilson.

He has systematically set his sights on every major river marathon title on the national calendar, and after recently adding the Umkomaas and Swartland marathon titles to his CV, the only major races that are conspicuously absent from his impressive list of achievements are the Drak Challenge and the Lowveld Croc titles.

“For sure, there is unfinished business on the Drak,” said McGregor.

He will be spending time on the Umzimkulu River ahead of the race to try to learn the subtleties that often make the difference between victory and a consolation place on the podium.

“The top section through the Valley of a Thousand Rapids doesn’t change all that much, but everyone is talking about the changes to Glenhaven rapid,” he said. “I really want to go and check that out before the race.”

With the race deciding the SA K1 river title, McGregor can expect to start alongside the country’s best ri­ver racers, including six times champion Ant Stott and his training partner Grant van der Walt.

More information on the Drakensberg Challenge can be found at www.drak.co.za.

 

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