Hungarian paddling star Adrian Boros sets the pace on his way to winning the first stage of the Berg on Wednesday. Picture: GMAEPLANE MEDIA
Hungarian paddling star Adrian Boros sets the pace on his way to winning the first stage of the Berg on Wednesday. Picture: GMAEPLANE MEDIA

The shortened 48km first stage of the Berg River Canoe Marathon on Wednesday was a battle between pre-race favourites Adrián Boros of Hungary and former winner South African Graeme Solomon.

On a chilly morning, in-form Boros, in his second appearance in the race, won the Paarl to Hermon stage by a whisker from Solomon.

He scored a K2 victory at the European Marathon Championships last weekend, to announce himself as a major contender for honours in the Berg River race.

Boros, who won the ICF Canoe Marathon K2 world title in 2015, was the first paddler to enter the Berg.

He arrived early in the country to trip the four legs, giving himself the best possible chance of winning.

The 26-year-old, who finished third on debut in 2016, clocked 3hr 45min 45sec, less than 2sec clear of 2001 champion Solomon and nearly 6min ahead of European counterpart Keith Moule.

"I think my lighter weight proved decisive in beating Graeme today," Boros said.

"Also, coming into the race following last weekend’s win K2 triumph and K1 runnerup finish brought with it a lot of confidence to the Berg that I hear is being contested in the lowest-ever water levels.

"I have a 10sec lead factoring in my time recorded for the pre-race time trial, but the advantage over my nearest rival amounts to not much considering it’s an elapsed time start.

"I expect another tight bunch-up upfront and will keep an eye on the chief threat to make sure he doesn’t pull off on his own," Boros said.

Solomon, 44, who finished fifth in 2016 and is competing in his 19th Berg, felt his heavier frame did him in.

"I was in a group of five with me weighing 92kg and them in their low 70kg, which made it so much tougher for me navigating sand banks and other obstacles," he said.

"I made two breaks, but each time I got reeled in and it was then a case of sticking with the front group and leaving it until the very end for the sprint which I narrowly lost."

The women’s race was dominated by double defending champion Bianca Beavitt.

She clocked 4hr 23min 07sec, 15min clear of Kirsten Penderis and a further 5min ahead of Robyn Henderson.

Beavitt, who placed 18th overall, will in all likelihood be racing by herself and may yet become the highest-placed female in open company. That distinction belongs to Alexa Cole who ended 17th overall in 2005. "Bar an unwanted swim 2km in a trouble-free ride it was nice to have male company along the way," she said.

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