‘Dream team’ raring to go

2010-01-21 00:00

WITH the burden of being overwhelming favourites in this year’s K2 Dusi race, Michael Mbanjwa and Ant Stott are positively bursting to get out of the starting blocks at Camp’s Drift.

By the time you spill your caffeine over this, Mbanjwa and Stott may be well on their way to a sizeable first-day lead.

This is the “dream team” that was conjured up last year, after the two pushed each other over three days when it was each man for himself.

Stott, displaying nerves of steel, held off “Banji’s” tireless legs to record a fine win, but the general consensus was that the two would be nigh on unstoppable if they linked forces in the two-man canoe.

“Ant and I have done some really good training and spent a good amount of time paddling together. At the moment I absolutely can’t wait … so we can get going,” Mbanjwa said in the lead-up to Maritzburg’s first in a long list of endurance events for the year.

“We’ve been working hard and I would say we are now more than ready to go.

“I think our experience of the river will definitely help us a lot and, hopefully, we can use that to our advantage.”

Certainly, the two could not be better matched, with Stott’s astute lines on the river the perfect foil for Mbanjwa’s relentless ability in the mountains.

In the women’s section, the evergreen Abbey Miedema is back in the country to defend her crown from last year.

Partnered by Robyn Kime, the Canadian-based Miedema said she just loves this time of year.

“It’s just great to be back for a race that I love so much, and also to be back in this sort of climate.”

Miedema is braced for an almighty scramble in the women's’ race, citing the duo of Hillary Pitchford and Jen Hodson as strong rivals, and also Abbey Adie and Lindy Harmsen.

“I think we are all evenly matched in the water, so it will come down to how well we do on the run,” Miedema told The Witness last night.

While Stott and Mbanjwa are expected to dominate in the men’s duel, they will have also taken note of their close call at the recent Inanda race, where they had to play catch-up after being tangled up with their rivals.

Among the canoeists who will be looking to knock the star cast off their perch will be young Andrew Birkett and his partner Jason Graham.

Birkett dominated the junior race last year and will be looking to make the step up in class against some stiff opposition.

Also in the mix is the combative duo of Jacques Theron and Piers Cruikshanks, with experience and resi­lience on their side.

Another pair to keep an eye on is Thomas Ngidi and Eric Zondi, who are part of Martin Dreyer’s stable of warriors from the Valley.

Last year, Dreyer’s charges excee­d­ed even the wily veteran’s own expectations, and, with a year’s experience behind them, they may also push for a spot on the podium.

Certainly, their stamina and enthusiasm will make them very difficult to shake off, especially in today’s first stage.

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