Defending champion Hank McGregor won the traditional pre-Berg River Canoe Marathon time trial in Paarl on Tuesday.
The 3.5km time-trial is held to decide the front row seeding for the first stage on Wednesday.
While local paddlers made up just over half of the top 10 paddlers in the race against the clock, four international paddlers made their presence felt as they snapped up the remaining four top 10 spots.
Simon van Gysen took the second spot on the podium, while Australian Josh Kippin was third.
“I’ve always had the attitude that you put your head down and give the time trial a real go, so I’m happy with another win,” said Euro Steel/Kayak Centre’s McGregor.
“It just gives me that little bit of extra confidence that I still have what it takes to mix it up in the front.
“But tomorrow is a whole new game and I’m going to have to keep my wits about me and not make any mistakes.”
The Western Cape’s winter rainfall has brought a reprieve from the tough paddling conditions created by the drought plaguing South Africa.
“The conditions are a lot better this year,” said McGregor. “Last year’s time trial was pretty much the same distance but felt like it took forever.”
Although the women’s time trial does not affect their starting position for the opening day it does give an indication of who the contenders might be.
In the absence of 2013 champion Jenna Ward, defending champion Bianca Beavitt fired an ominous warning shot to her opposition.
“I have been going a lot harder and a lot faster than I did in previous years in the build-up to the race,” said the Century City/Pink Lady star.
“My times have been a lot better and my time trial time was a lot faster than last year, which is encouraging for me.”
The women’s time trial podium was rounded out by Mocké Paddling’s Nicole Russell and Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling’s U18 sensation Kyeta Purchase.
Australian Marathon champion Kippin, the best of the international paddlers, was slightly apprehensive about his debut outing.
“I’ve heard that the race is long, hard and cold but I am happy with how it went today. However, a 13-minute time trial is no indication of how the next 240 kilometres are going to go.”
The first stage of the Berg River Canoe Marathon will cover 62km from Paarl to Zonquasdrift.