McGregor takes lead at Fish River

2014-10-11 00:00

KNUTSFORD — Hank McGregor’s class shone through as the five-time Canoe Marathon World Champion won the first stage of the 2014 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon yesterday.

He holds a slender 54-second lead over Andy Birkett while Abby Adie and Michele Eray will fight for the women’s title on today’s second stage.

McGregor and Birkett traded blows throughout the 45 km stage despite McGregor narrowly avoiding a swim at the infamous Keith’s Flyover which claimed a number of victims on the opening day.

“I had a great race,” McGregor said. “I made a bit of a mistake at Keith’s where I spun out at the bottom but I recovered.”

The Team Jeep/Kayak Centre star pushed the pace at the front and it was only Birkett who could hold onto the leader’s tail.

“Everyone came off except for Andrew [Birkett] and then after Katkop Weir he had a bit of a bad patch and I stretched it but didn’t do anything crazy. I’m feeling good …,” McGregor said.

McGregor understands the position and the pressure that comes with being in the front going into the final day.

“I would love to win and pressure comes with the territory. I am leading at the moment and I would like to stay in the front but there is a lot of water between now and then.”

The women’s clash fast became a two-filly race as Abby Adie and Michelé Eray streaked ahead of the rest of the field as early as the Grassridge Dam wall portage with Adie eventually eking out a 29-second advantage.

“It was a cold and tough day out there,” said the Natal Canoe Club/Kayak Centre athlete. “I started the day with Michelé [Eray] and Jenna [Ward] on the dam before I managed to break away a little on the portage.”

Eray, formerly from Plettenberg Bay and now living in Oklahoma City in the U.S., relished the competitive return to her home province and was satisfied with her first stage effort.

“It’s so good to be back. Abby’s a lot stronger than me now so I just tried to avoid making any mistakes and sit close enough to her that I could capitalise on any mistakes she made,” she said.

Under-23 paddler Jenna Ward rounded out the women’s podium.

Men’s Top Three: Hank McGregor 2:54,24, Andy Birkett 2:55,10, Greg Louw 2:58,08

Women’s Top Three: Abby Adie 3:18,33, Michelé Eray 3:19,02, Jenna Ward (U23) 3:24,56.

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