Paarl — Team Bamboo Warehouse’s Graeme Solomon and Adrián Boros, as expected, won the 64km opening stage of the Berg River Canoe Marathon from Paarl to Zonquasdrift in 4hr 45min 52sec on Wednesday.
But it was not all plain sailing for the favourites, said Solomon. "We made so many mistakes on a low-level river and certainly don’t want a repeat for Thursday’s shortened 27km trek from Gouda to Bridgetown."
In second place on Wednesday was the international pair of Britain’s Keith Moule and Joep van Bakel of Holland, with the gap just 90sec.
"Things went wrong for us for the first 40km and it started with Adrián falling out of his boat at Skooljie. He failed to get back in quick enough to stop Keith and Joep from taking the lead," said Solomon.
"We worked our way back and then again committed more silly mistakes, taking wrong turns and ending up in the trees, which gifted time to our chief rivals. But then we started to find each other about 20km out from the finish and managed to retake the lead and crossed the line together.
"The new two-person team format makes for an interesting format," Solomon said.
"Key is to look after your partner through thick and thin and always remain close together," he said.
"My role then is to navigate the tricky parts on the river and for Adrián to follow my line. He then puts foot on the flat stages with me in hot pursuit.
"Here’s hoping our formula delivers the desired outcome."
Moule and Van Bakel have raced the Berg once before, claiming top-10 finishes.
But they know that they are chasing two former winners of the race who will get stronger by the day.
"Joep did a lot of the work in the middle of the day and he pulled me along until I managed to start contributing towards the end of the day when I started feeling better.
"If we can start tomorrow how we finished today then I think that it will be a very interesting race," said Moule.
Gavin White and Bartho Visser rounded off the podium some 18min off the pace of the front two.
Bianca Beavitt, the K1 winner for the previous three years, has entered the mixed team event with Crispin Thompson. They lead their category and are in sixth position overall.