N3TC Drak Challenge 2016 Media Release

 No: drak1620

24 Jan 2016

Embargo : None

Written by: Dave Macleod


Birkett and Solms unstoppable at N3TC Drak Challenge


Underberg – Overnight leaders Andy Birkett and Abby Solms were in a league of their own throughout the second stage of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge as they completed the successful defence of their men’s and women’s titles.

In a day that saw then men’s top ten shaken up dramatically when second placed Hank McGregor was forced to withdraw early on battling with a stomach ailment, Birkett (Euro Steel) stayed out of trouble, kept things simple and powered away from the rest of the star-studded field.

“I am thrilled to have won it again,” said Birkett. "It feels special to have been successful in the last few races because I actually gave the race a break because I was having such bad luck on it!"

“My plan was to go hard for ten or fifteen kilometres to try and extend the ten second lead I had over Hank (McGregor),” he added. "I thought something was wrong because right from the start I was able to suddenly put a lot of time between myself and Hank. It must have been tough for him to even start of he was feeling that bad."

"It was only when I got to Callaway bridge at the end of the Gorge that I was told that Hank had pulled out in Underberg. But then I knew that Len (Jenkins) was working with Owen Gandar and I had to keep up the pace to make sure they didn't catch me."

Birkett said that he was unfazed by racing the final stage on his own. "That is something that the Dusi has taught me," he said. "Most of the time during a Dusi you are on your own so you have to try and race your own race and monitor yourself. You just get used to it."

With the FNB Dusi just a month away Birkett said the win was a positive but guarded against reading too much into it.

"The year that I won the Dusi with Sbonelo (Khwela), he was beaten on the Drak by (women's race winner) Abby Solms. The Dusi is totally different. Just throw in a tough portage and everything changes."

Jenkins wrapped up the second place, with Owen Gandar bagging the biggest result of his career by clinching the last spot on the podium.

It was a day of high drama on the men's leaderboard, as surges by classy athlete coupled with mishaps and swims on the technically demanding river saw the top ten rankings shuffled regularly.

Perhaps the performance of the day belonged to Michaelhouse schoolboy Jean van der Westhuyzen. The former junior K2 marathon world champ was in irrepressible form as he scorched down the 38km finish stage to improve his overnight seventh position to fourth overall.

He leapfrogged the on-form Andrew Houston who finished fifth, with Eastern Cape star Greg Louw sixth, outsprinting Thulani Mbanjwa.

Visiting Czech republic star Jakub Adam was having a superb second stage, racing through the top ten on the long testing stretches of flatwater, until he fell out at the Heaven and Hell Rapid twenty minutes from the end of the race, costing him six places in the highly competitive race.

Cape surfski star Jasper Mocké, who was eight overnight, tumbled back to nineteenth after breaking a paddle in Glenhaven rapid.

Mocké finished just behind the women's champion Abby Solms (Euro Steel) who wrapped up a compelling performance on the tough two day race that saw her win the women's title for a sixth time by sixteen minutes, finishing in eighteenth place overall.

Solms was in unstoppable form, and after shaking off the attention of the other female contenders early on in Day One, she relentlessly ground away at the front of the women race and immersed herself impressively in the men's race.

On Day Two she found allies in Brent Chiazzari and Trenton Lamble, and she managed to stay with fast pace set by the FNB Dusi K2 pairing that saw the trio slice through the front of the field.

"I couldn't have asked for a better Drak," enthused Solms afterwards. "I have never had such a strong final stage."

Solms not only extends her remarkable run at the popular race to six wins in seven starts, but she has a real spring in her step as she sets her sights on the FNB Dusi challenge with her Czech partner Anna Kožíšková, who arrives in South Africa on Wednesday.

"I can take so much confidence from this result. I feel like my training has gone really well, and the bulk of the training is done. Now we can start to do the Dusi specific work."

Under 23 world marathon champs double silver medallist Jenna Ward was the second woman home ahead of Donna Tutton and the on-form junior Cana Peek.

The 62km two-day race was well supported by around 550 paddlers, who warmed to the news of the well timed rains and the allure and hospitality of the Southern Drakensberg community that hosts the event.

More information can be found at www.drak.co.za

SUMMARY OF RESULTS – N3TC DRAK CHALLENGE
STAGE TWO (SWARTBERG BRIDGE – HOPEWELL FARM)

Overall
1.Andy Birkett 2:23.14 3:58.21
2.Len Jenkins 2:25.16 4:01.11
3.Owen Gandar 2:26.22 4:02.33
4.Jean van der Westhuyzen (U18) 2:27.01 4:04.40
5.Andrew Houston (U23) 2:27.48 4:04.54
6.Greg Louw 2:28.11 4:06.03
7.Thulani Mbanjwa 2:28.29 4:06.03
8.Brandon van der Walt 2:28.06 4:06.38
9.Jakub Adam (CZE) 2:28.13 4:06.43
10.Siseko Ntondini (U23) 2:29.35 4:09.40
11.Alan Houston (U23) 2:29.34 4:09.41
12.Ant Stott 2:31.23 4:09.55
13.Damon Stamp (U23) 2:32.05 4:11.39
14.Sbonelo Khwela 2:31.43 4:13.10
15.Thomas Lovemore (U23) 2:31.29 4:13.11
16.Banetse Nkhoesa (U23) 2:33.02 4:14.28
17.Brent Chiazzari 2:33.14 4:15.51
18.Abby Solms (1st Woman) 2:33.22 4:15.59
19.Jasper Mocké 2:38.45 4:16.25
20.Trenton Lamble 2:34.49 4:17.24

Women
1.Abby Solms 2:33.22 4:15.59
2.Jenna Ward (U23) 2:42.42 4:31.58
3.Donna Tutton 2:46.24 4:37.10
4.Cana Peek (U18) 2:56.24 4:50.55
5.Tamika Haw 2:51.19 4:51.17
6.Jane Swarbreck 2:50.09 4:51.17
7.Catherine Atkinson (U23) 3:00.13 5:02.13
8.Lauren Felgate (U23) 3:05.11 5:08.58
9.Hayley Arthur 3:02.51 5:10.25
10.Debra Lewis 3:13.20 5:24.13

U23 Men
1.Andrew Houston 2:27.48 4:04.54
2.Siseko Ntondini 2:29.35 4:09.40
3.Alan Houston 2:29.34 4:09.41
4.Damon Stamp 2:32.05 4:11.39
5.Thomas Lovemore 2:31.29 4:13.11

U23 Women
1.Jenna Ward 2:42.42 4:31.58
2.Catherine Atkinson 3:00.13 5:02.13
3.Lauren Felgate 3:05.11 5:08.58

U18 Boys
1.Jean van der Westhuyzen 2:27.01 4:04.40
2.Bailey de Fondaumiere 2:39.33 4:27.45
3.Craig Heenan 2:38.43 4:27.47

U18 Girls
1.Cana Peek 2:56.24 4:50.55
2.Cara Waud 3:25.19 5:46.40
3.Lisa Meyer 3:27.26 5:52.58

ENDS

Photo Caption Photographer Click to download the hi-res pic
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2016 Logo - JPeg

 

Andy Birkett (Euro Steel) crashes through Glenhaven Rapid en route to competing a hat-trick of victories at the N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Andy Birkett (Euro Steel) celebrates his third successful win in N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Second placed Len Jenkins negotiates Glenhaven rapid on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Posting the best result of his career Owen Gandar raced onto the podium on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Abby Solms (Euro Steel) master Glenhaven rapid on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Double Under 23 world champs silver medallist finished second in the women's race at the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

A resurgent Donna Tutton finished third overall in the women's race at the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Epworth schoolgirl Cana Peek raced to fourth overall in the women's rankings, and easily won the junior girls race on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Glenhaven rapid provides a popular spectator point on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Former winner Grant van der Walt partnered Heidi Bird to victory in the Mixed Doubles class at the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Michaelhouse schoolboy Jean van der Westhuyzen excelled on stage two of the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon to finish fourth overall. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

In tough medium-low water conditions rocky rapids like Mkhulu tested the field that took part in the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Despite the severe drought in the region well timed rains provided a spectacular platform for the big field of paddlers to enjoy the Southern Drakensberg at the 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Conditions of usage of photographs: All photographs supplied and hyperlinked herewith may be used free of charge, with full credit to the photographer and agency as provided. The photographs may not be modified or retouched in any way, but may be cropped to suit the layout requirements of the publications. The photographs provided may be used exclusively for editorial purposes, and may be reprinted in any newspaper, magazine, television programme or on any website. These photographs may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose, including but not limited to posters, advertisements, commercials, promotional email correspondence, point-of-sale material or any retail promotion. Should such usage be desired, please contact us at the details below.
Is this of no value to you?
This media release is intended for use by media professionals covering this specific activity or sport. Should this release not be relevant you, please advise us immediately and we will be glad to remove your name from this particular database. It would be useful to us if you could advise us which subjects you would like to continue receiving releases on.
For any further information, or if you cannot access the images, please contact:
Gameplan Media
(031) 764 3017