After the cold front that made landfall over the Western Cape last weekend failed to have any significant effect on the level of the Berg River, the organisers of the Berg River Canoe Marathon have confirmed changes to the route for the four-day classic from July 12-15.

The first stage from Paarl will be shortened by about 14km and will finish at the Hermon Bridge. This has been done principally to avoid the fast-growing water hyacinth on the section between Hermon and the traditional overnight stop at Zonquasdrift.

The hyacinth blockages continue at the beginning of the second stage, forcing day two to start at the Gouda Bridge and finish at Bridgetown on Misverstand Dam. The second stage will in all likelihood include an out-and-back loop on the dam to make up some distance.

With Misverstand Dam being one of only a few dams in the region to be spilling, stage three and four will be held as normal, albeit on a low river.

The first overnight stop has been moved to Bridgetown to accommodate these late changes, and the second day’s start time has been moved to an hour later to allow for changes to travel plans.

 The trio of visiting international paddlers, Adrián Boros of Hungary, Czech star Petr Mojzisek and British speedster Keith Moule, spent the weekend tripping the third and final stages of the race.

They will find themselves in an unexpectedly dominant position as the weather and water conditions have scared off most of the region’s best local marathoners. The race’s defending champion, Hank McGregor, and his Euro Steel teammate, Jasper Mocké, have opted to race surfski events in Canada and the US instead. Graeme Solomon, the 2001 Berg champion, has been in good racing form, but being one of the heaviest paddlers in the field, he is not excited by the prospect of four days on a low river.

That leaves Heinrich Schloms as the key to the local challenge, with Bianca Beavitt, the defending women’s champion, now able to seriously eye a potential top-10 finish, something that has never been achieved before.

The race entries reflect a skew towards master and grandmaster paddlers, fronted by 77-year-old Jannie Malherbe, who was part of the small field which pioneered the first Berg in 1962, and Giel van Deventer, who plans to extend his own record for the most number of Berg finishes to 48.

The marathon starts in Paarl on July 12 and ends at Velddrif on July 15. For more information, visit www.berg.org.za

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