Defending champion McGregor withdraws from Drak Challenge

2013-01-09 00:00

HANK McGregor’s withdrawal from this year’s Drak Challenge, to be held on January 19 and 20, has pundits scratching their heads in predicting a winner.

This is the 20th edition of the 70 km race and McGregor, winner of the previous three challenges, has opted to head Down Under for the Perth Doctor, the first race on the international surfski calendar.

Said McGregor: “The Drak is one of my favourite races, but having shifted my focus for this year with more attention on surfskiing, the Perth Doctor gets my vote instead.”

McGregor has said his ambition was to win the ICF surfski world championships in Europe later in the year.

His pulling out of the Drak Challenge has been the talk of the river paddling community, and six-time winner Ant Stott believes this will allow fellow top paddlers to prove their worth and chase the title.

“Without Hank, the race is wide open, with a number of big names able to bag the win. It’s the ideal warm-up to the Dusi and every paddler on the start line is strong. The elite group up front has all the big names capable of winning and it’s going to be a tough race,” Stott said.

However, McGregor has tipped Grant van der Walt as the one to watch, come the charge to the finish. The two train together and Van der Walt knows the race well.

Said McGregor: “Grant is strong and steady at the moment. He is not focusing on the Dusi and has a handy record in the Drak, being the fastest paddler on the second day for the past few years. If he can get out the blocks well on day one and add his usual day two exploits, the race is his.”

Paddling, like most sports, does throw it’s surprises into the mix every so often and McGregor’s withdrawal has definitely upped the stakes in deciding on a clear winner.

It may be one of the seasoned “river rats” or a complete outsider who raises his arms aloft, but it would take a brave betting man to hedge his prediction on one particular paddler.

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