Reigning marathon world champ Andy Birkett and Berg Queen Bianca Beavitt took home the spoils on the 16km first stage of the ground-breaking Bamboo Warehouse Push and Pull Paddle on the Berg River on Friday.
Racing on a full river the short stage included two cash hotspots, and with the women’s batch afforded the privilege on Women’s Day of being first off from the start at Pearl Valley in the Val de Vie estate, the real bragging rights would belong to the paddler to take overall lines honours at the finish in Paarl.
Beavitt blitzed clear to claim the first incentive, the AQRate bridge prize 3,3km into the race and then asserted herself on the strong women’s field to add the Paarl Web Design hot spot prize at the Market Street bridge weir fifteen minutes from the end of the stage.
By that stage word had reached her that Andy Birkett was having a similar day, netting both the men’s equivalent hot-spots, and was closing in fast hoping to add overall line-honours to his swag.
Beavitt pinned her ears back, and appropriately on Women’s Day, enjoy the acclaim of the crowd at the overnight stop at Berg River Breweries with Birkett closing in fast in the background.
“It was such a cool day and good fun to be paddling on flowing water again,” said Birkett. “”The short stage meant that the racing was very intense”.
Birkett’s initial target was Nicky Notten, who took off at the front of the race.
“Luckily I managed to get past him just ahead of the first bridge prize,” said the Euro Steel athlete.
“But shortly after that Nicky (Notten) and Kenny (Rice) went into a tree block. I saw them heading down the left channel and yelled that the race briefing said we should go right”.
“They went ahead and they must have got properly stuck because I went right and managed to get quite gap,” he added.
For Birkett the highlight of the day was catching up to his wife Nicky in the final kilometre of the stage.
“That hasn’t happened before, and we had a good chat. She had this big smile on her face so she had had a really good day,” said Birkett.
Nikki Birkett had one swim to blemish her otherwise flawless day as she claimed second in the women’s race behind Beavitt.
Jason Goedhals partnered Fanta Gous to claim the overnight K2 lead, holding off Graeme Solomon and the Andre Collins, making a welcome return to the Berg River.
Elleni Smyth was the first of six Stand Up Paddleboarders home.
The second stage is 36 kilometres from the overnight camp at the Berg River Brewery to Blou Porselein Guest Farm, starting with the Gara hotspot at the Dal Josephat Weir.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
BAMBOO WAREHOUSE PUSH AND PULL PADDLE DAY ONE
1 Andy Birkett 0:53:56.76
2 Kenneth Rice 0:54:41.16
3 Stewart Little 0:54:42.26
4 Mark Keeling 0:54:43.02
5 Nicholas Notten 0:55:24.69
6 Stuart Maclaren 0:55:27.28
7 Simon Van Gysen 0:56:01.15
8 Ernest Van Riet 0:56:21.29
9 Ulvard Hart 0:56:34.08
10 Murray Starr 0:56:35.42
1 Bianca Beavitt 1:00:12.17
2 Nikki Birkett 1:01:40.10
3 Christie Mackenzie 1:03:30.23
4 Kim Van Gysen 1:04:17.76
5 Candice Murray 1:05:06.03
1 Jason Goedhals/Fanta Gous 0:59:44.41
2 Graeme Solomon/Andre Collins 1:00:04.41
3 Kelvin Trautman/Sabrina Chesterman 1:00:26.40
4 Chris De Waal/Dominique Desmeules 1:01:58.72
53 Emanuel Zaloumis/Kate Bussin/Colin Whitfield 1:06:41.91
1 Elleni Smyth 2:04:35.72
2 Sandy Ackland 2:04:52.39
3 Guy Bubb 2:04:56.04
4 Jolene Harris 2:05:06.92
5 Rory Smyth 2:05:11.92
6 Jean Mortlock 2:05:15.20