Graeme Solomon and Hungarian Adriá Boros form Team Bamboo Warehouse and are hot favourites to win the Berg River Canoe Marathon title.
The 57th edition of the 240km four-day paddling epic from Paarl to Velddrif gets under way on Wednesday. Boros won last year’s race ahead of former champion Solomon, which makes them a formidable combination.
The iconic race has, in recent times, lost its appeal due to lack of sponsorship and low river levels because of the drought that has plagued the Cape region for several years.
Organisers have taken note and come up with a new formula to get the competitive juices of the top men flowing again. Though it is a pity not a single women’s team has entered.
Bianca Beavitt, the triple defending champion, will be competing again but in the mixed team event. There is clearly a dip in depth in the women’s river paddling ranks that needs addressing.
Evergreen Solomon is a Berg legend. He won in 2001 and boasts eight second-placed finishers and 12 podium positions overall in his 19 Berg finishers. And he’s itching for more success.
“Firstly, the race needed to re-energise itself in some form or other, and that’s now happened, so let’s all embrace a new era,” Solomon said.
“It is important for race followers to note that the Berg isn’t a K2 race (two in a boat); we race alone but combine as a team much like the Cape Epic mountain bike race.
“The goal is to work for each other and try and finish all the four stages as one (combined times count).
“I think it changes how one approaches the race and for sure tactics will be key to the overall outcome.
“Adrian is currently competing in the European Marathon Championships in Croatia and will only arrive in Cape Town at the last minute, so I’m sure he’s going to be a bit tired and that means I will be the one making sure that mistakes are few and far between.
“In this regard, I was in Bridgetown yesterday morning tripping sections of the river and let me say that the river levels are dropping fast, meaning a low one for stage one, and that’s going to make for tough racing taking into account the tree blockages and other dangers that lurk below the surface.
“Adrian will supply the power to our cause as I’m no spring chicken anymore, but then again, age is just a number.
“I see ourselves as the ones to beat come the finish on Saturday just after noon.”
Solomon won the pre-Berg Pink Ladies Marathon to show he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Main threats to the favoured two are the Houston brothers Alan and Andrew. The KwaZulu-Natalians come to the Mother City armed with the necessary firepower to make a fist of it. As far as the overseas contingent is concerned, keep an eye out for the Joel Van Bakel/Keith Moule combination.
Moule was a top-10 finisher last year, while Van Bakel racked up a sixth place in 2015.