Jasper Mocké and Stu MacLaren snatched the overnight line honours on stage one of the Breede River Canoe Marathon from McGregor bridge in Robertson on Saturday.
Mocké and MacLaren, brothers Kenny and Sean Rice, as well as Graeme Solomon and Grego Louw were locked in a three boat duel and approached a low level bridge two kilometres from the end of the 38km stage.
The paddlers knew that the low river conditions would force them to portage the final obstacle.
Solomon, who has won this premier K2 title five times, made a snap decision to head to the right hand side of the bridge for the short portage, while Mocké and MacLaren and the Rice siblings took the faster option on the left.
The Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling duo of Mocké and MacLaren pounced on the opportunity to race away to the finish line to claim the overnight lead, and with it the psychological advantage of starting the 33km final stage to Kam’bati Resort at the front of elapsed time.
The hot end sprint at the end of a tough stage raced on a low Breede River was too much for the Rice brothers, who fell off the bunch leaving Solomon (Bamboo Warehouse/Knysna Racing) and Louw (Knysna Racing Merrell) finishing second, seventeen seconds adrift.
“It was a snap decision to go right at the portage. Right was not right though, and we saw Jasper (Mocké) and Stu (MacLaren) take off for the finish line,” said Louw.
Mocké knows that their overnight lead is small, and he will have to keep his tactical options open on the final stage.
“The river is low but we will try to extend the small lead we have, but if it looks like we are banging our heads against a brick wall, we might leave it to the end sprint,” said Mocké.
The women’s title race has been controlled by the KwaZulu-Natal crew of Abby Solms (Euro Steel) and Ronel Stevens.
Bianca Beavitt was the second female paddler home, and the second K1 paddler overall, just a few seconds behind overall singles leader Gavin White.
View the results here.