Paarl – Berg River Canoe Marathon legend, Graeme Solomon will again be on the start line of this year’s edition of the 240km journey from Paarl to Velddrif which takes place from 13-16 July and the 43 year-old evergreen competitor is relishing being part of the mouth-watering battle at the front of the field once more.
2015 produced one of the most fascinating men’s top ten clashes in the race’s history and with another star-studded line up gathering again in 2016, the “Godfather of the Berg” is licking his lips at the prospect.
“It’s going to be a massively competitive field again, just like last year. Just to get a top five is going be a huge ask for anyone,” describes Solomon.
“Obviously if Hank (McGregor) confirms he will be taking part then that will bring a whole new dimension to the race for the title while the Hungarian, Adrian Boros’ recent entry is a fascinating one as he certainly has the rare potential to win the Berg on debut.
“There are another six or seven guys at least that, on paper, could all push for a top five as well though.
“Simon van Gysen won the Pink Lady race recently while Stu Maclaren has been flying all year.
“Brendan Rice from Australia showed glimpses of just how fast he can go and his river skills during his first ever Berg last year and having licked his wounds since then, he will come back this year a lot more competitive.
“You can’t ever write off the likes of Louw van Riet and Edgar Boehm either – both are regular top fivers.
“There is going to be incredible some racing this year!” he adds passionately.
Solomon has an astounding record of eleven podiums in his seventeen Berg finishes – including seven second and three third place efforts to go with his sole victory in 2001.
His podium finishes together with having finished outside of the top ten on just three occasions in his illustrious Berg career; few know the intricacies associated with racing at the front of the demanding event better than Solomon.
The Bamboo Warehouse/Knysna Racing athlete believes though that this year’s Berg charge will be unique as Working for Water continue their alien vegetation removal programme that has altered the nature of Berg River dramatically.
“The Berg is almost unrecognizable now with all the Blue Gums that have been chopped down.
“Now more than ever, as a paddler you’re able to appreciate the incredible scenery that have always surrounded you as you paddle down the Berg River but have never been able to see before.
“Less trees on the banks has also meant less major tree blocks in the river and so there will be far less opportunistic attacks like there have been around these in the past.
“Instead paddlers are going to have to use just great marathon tactics to get ahead of the rest, which is great for the race, especially as it looks to grow its appeal nationally and even internationally.
“No longer will the Cape guys have such a massive advantage over the rest, which is a good thing. It will now just be good, hard, but clean racing.”
The 2016 Berg River Canoe Marathon starts in Paarl on 13 July and ends at Velddrif on 16 July. More information can be found at www.berg.org.za