Stew Little signalled his intent to occupy a spot on the overall podium at the N3TC Drak Challenge in partnership with FNB on 19 and 20 January by winning the FastDrak on Sunday in tough, low river conditions.
The Underberg-based Euro Steel athlete raced much of the 42km race on his own and powered away to win from Maritzburg College pupil Dave Evans over a course that was shortened by 20 kilometres because the uMzimkhulu River was running very low.
The Fast Drak covers the two-day N3TC Drak Challenge course in one long-distance day, and while it attracts a niched field, it does provide a reliable barometer of form ahead of the two-day classic that this year will also decide the SA K1 River Marathon titles for 2019.
Carl Folscher took the third place on a day that was dominated by younger paddlers in the absence on some of the senior pros including defending champ Hank McGregor who elected not to race the event this year.
Little’s younger brother Scott and Michaelhouse Under 16 paddler, Matthew Millward rounded out the top five as the younger and lighter paddlers excelled on the low river.
Clint Cook showed some solid form early on in the race before falling back after breaking a paddle blade and eventually finishing in tenth position.
Continuing her giant-killing form, Christie Mackenzie easily won the women’s title, finishing twenty minutes ahead of Amy Peckett, with Tracey Oellerman taking third, close behind her.
Mackenzie hit the headlines at the last FNB Dusi when she partnered Bridgitte Hartley to a stunning second place in the womens’ K2 race, outsprinting the pedigree crew of Jenna Ward and her Hungarian partner Vanda Kiszli at the death.
Around 100 paddlers braved the low uMzimkhulu for the event, which provided a tough test of fitness and technical skills for the paddlers training for the annual Underberg favourite.
They will all be hoping that the regular afternoon thunderstorms in the Southern Berg top up the river before the massive field descends on the region in three weeks time.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1.Stewart Little 3:09:44
2.David Evans 3:12:24
3.Carl Folscher 3:18:08
4.Scott Little 3:21:00
5.Matthew Millward 3:26:15
6.David Chaplin 3:30:12
7.Max Howard 3:31:17
8.Shane Millward 3:31:18
9.Derek Stutterheim 3:37:26
10.Clint Cook 3:38:10
1.Christie Mackenzie 3:39:49
2.Amy Peckett 4:00:45
3.Tracey Oellerman 4:04:15