Winning start for Solomon at the Berg

2014-07-17 00:00

SONKASDRIFT — Berg River Canoe Marathon 2001 champion Graeme Solomon yesterday won this year’s first stage of the 53rd race — a 62,1 km stretch between Paarl and Sonkasdrift.

The 41-year old Solomon won the stage, which took place in warm weather, in four hours, six minutes and 53 seconds.

The difference between Solomon and the three other canoeists who chased him to the finishing line, Jasper Mocke, Simon van Gysen and Dusi champion Andy Birkett, was only three seconds.

The chances are good that the winner of this year’s Berg — as the gruelling race is known among participants — will probably be one of these four.

They are already leading the next group by a comfortable eight minutes.

Defending champion Lance King experienced a very difficult first stage wearing the yellow jersey.

Shortly after the start he overturned at the first weir in the Paarl and suffered from extreme cramps afterwards.

The pace became too fast for King during the second part of the race, and he arrived almost 16 minutes after Solomon and the others at the finishing line.

King admitted that his chances of winning the title for the second successive time are probably gone.

After he overturned King struggled to catch up with Solomon and the others. He was with them when they paddled under the Wellington Bridge.

At that stage Solomon, Mocke, Van Gysen and Birkett must have realised that King was struggling.

They merely upped the pace and left him behind.

“I don’t begrudge them, because I did that too in the past,” said King.

A satisfied Solomon said the pace was “as quick as I expected”.

Birkett, who said he was using the race as a preparation for the world half-marathon, said he continuously had to look at what the others were doing ­because it has been six years since he last took part in the race and he was not familiar with the route.

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