Pietermaritzburg - Following another strong entry for the 2019 edition, the race for podium places at the Dusi Canoe Marathon got a lot more complicated with the surprise entry from Spanish ace Ivan Alonso.
With three world titles to his credit, including the elusive double of K1 and K2 titles in 2012 the Spaniard comes with a distinct pedigree, even if he starts the race as a total Dusi novice.
Eleven times world champ Hank McGregor, who has raced Alonso numerous times at the World Marathon Championships over the years, says he will add a totally new dimension to the race.
"That complicates things nicely," he said. "He is good, and one of a small list of paddlers to have won the marathon double.
"He is a hard but very technical, tactical paddler, who knows the art of getting the most out of a race without doing most of the work," said McGregor.
"It will be hard for him because he doesn't know the Dusi, but what he will do is change the dynamic around the front of the race.
"Expect him to put in a charge to be the first to Ernie Pearce weir. After that he will take up a valuable place on the wave that guys like Thulani Mbanjwa or Stew Little will be working for," McGregor added.
The Spaniard, who will join the team that boasts virtually all the podium contenders for the race, will be untested on the long portages.
"I know what he can do over a hundred metres running with a boat, but let's see whether he can keep that up," said McGregor.
"He will battle with a lack of knowledge of the he rivers but the Spaniard are all good river paddlers, from their Sella experiences.
"Just look at Kiko Vega, finishing third at the Fish and well into the top ten on his first Drak," he pointed out.
Alonso comes as the paddler with the highest pedigree for this year's race and will have to learn quickly among South Africa's elite.
Hungarian marathon ace Adrian Boros finished in a surprising second at the 2018 edition of the race with Carl Folscher on his fifth attempt at the race. His result shows the amount of time it takes international paddlers to get to grips with the uniqueness of the Dusi.