CAPE TOWN - There's never been a foreign winner of the Berg River Canoe Marathon, but with defending champion Hank McGregor not making a tilt at an unprecedented 12th title, chances of an international paddler claiming honours in the four-day trek from Paarl to Velddrif later this month is a distinct possibility.
And with many locals still mulling over whether to enter the 56th edition of the race due to low-level river conditions, the likelihood of an overseas paddler claiming a maiden victory is on the cards.
Czech Republic’s Petr Mojíek will be at the start for his second Berg and will be aiming to improve on last year’s sixth place. The 40-year-old veteran from Prague, however, is playing down his chances.
“I’m not in the best shape for a race of this calibre and being a big man doesn’t bode well for me on a river running low,” he said.
“But I enjoy a challenge and the Berg over a 240km course and four stages is just that and I just can’t pass up the opportunity.
“I’ll try and duplicate my previous effort without the mistakes.
“A top-five placing is my goal and higher comes down to whether or not it rains.
“As for Hank not being at the start, nothing really changes,” he added.
“What is reality is someone new will be crowned champion and who that will be is up in the air. For sure one of a number of local guys will be aiming for the win, but I hear very few big names have put pen to paper yet, so let’s wait and see what changes in this respect.”
McGregor, who is competing in a number of high-profile international surfski races, is backing Hungary’s Adrián Boros (the first paddler to enter the race) to be a big contender.
“Adrián i’s a world champion at the peak of his powers and he now knows what it’s all about having placed third last year on debut.
“And of course Petr comes into the reckoning based on what he’s been able to achieve in marathon paddling.”
To date a total of 68 entries have been received, including three 3 women.