Adrián Boros of Hungary led from start to finish to win the Berg River Canoe Marathon on Saturday and become the first international paddler to achieve the feat in the 56-year history of the event.
Boros had a 3min 20sec advantage going into the final leg from Bridgetown to Velddrif with the 57km stage standing between him and a historic win. He powered to yet another end-sprint win over Bamboo Warehouse’s Graeme Solomon to claim the overall victory.
The 26-year-old won all four stages of the trek from Paarl to Velddrif and clocked an overall time of 16hr 53min 11sec, which was 3:21 clear of Cape Town’s former winner Solomon, who battled throughout in a bid to join 1962 champion Nollie Meiring as the oldest winner at age 44.
The five-strong women’s race was a one-horse affair with the Cape’s Bianca Beavitt winning by a country mile for her third consecutive victory. The Century City-Pink Lady star ended 18th overall to fall one place short of joining Alexa Cole (2005) as the highest-placed woman in open company.
Will Boros, who finished third on debut in 2016, be back to defend his title?
"I want to be back, but will have to wait and see," said Boros, who came to SA fresh off a K2 victory the week earlier at the European Marathon Championships, signalling him as a top contender for Berg honours.
"Right now I’m dead tired after four hard days of racing on a river that proved challenging throughout and I was just happy to have made it to the finish.
"I got lost early on during the second stage and was lucky to pull things back and go on to have a relatively trouble-free ride to the end. Graeme was a tough competitor and full marks for another runners-up finish."
The 2017 race proved a nightmare for competitors, with river levels the lowest recorded, forcing organisers to shorten the route by 40km.
"Firstly, let me congratulate Adrian on his victory. He’s a superb marathon paddler and just too good for me," said Solomon, who won in 2001.
"Whereas he was able to limit mistakes to a premium, I had one too many, especially on the second stage, which ultimately sunk my chances.
"A wrong put-in at one of the many portages and trouble at a tree block cost me almost three minutes and that you can’t afford racing a bloke of Adrián’s calibre, who is much smaller and lighter than me.
"That said, I gave it my all in nonfavourable conditions and to be able to mix it with the front guys half my age feels like another kind of victory."
The women’s race was never a contest as Beavitt made light work of the chasing Kirsten Penderis and Robyn Henderson from the start to the finish, in the process racking up an impressive 12th consecutive stage.
"I don’t think the win has quite sunk in yet but it is always glorious to get to the end,
"If you had asked me if I would do one Berg five years ago I would have said never. But I am here, I don’t think I learnt my lesson," she said.