Lovemore holds on to claim Berg River Marathon victory

Knysnas Tom Lovemore duly secured his first Berg River Canoe Marathon win when he swept across the line ahead of the leading bunch at the finish of the 57-kilometre Stage 4 in a sunny Velddrif on Saturday afternoon.

AIn doing so, Lovemore denied 52-year old Robbie Herreveld – who won the event six times in the 90s – an astonishing comeback victory. On the day, Herreveld was also battling the effects of a stomach ailment and could not hold on to Lovemore and a group of four other youngsters on the closing stages of the four-day event.

Jeremy Maher finished with the leading bunch to secure third place overall, ahead of Msawenkosi Mtolo and Heinrich Schloms.

Another paddler who had a difficult day was women’s leader Stephanie von der Heyde, who had to overcome a broken rudder cable to secure the win in spite of finishing second on the stage.

“There is no better feeling in the world than to come into Velddrif with a bunch off mates,” said Lovemore as he walked out of the water.

He paid tribute to Herrevelds remarkable effort and said the veteran had hung in until the Oordraplek portage not far from the finish. “Then a group of the younger guys got away.”

Herreveld and a small group chased the leaders until the end, but by the time he crossed the line his overall deficit had widened to one minute and 30 seconds.

Herreveld said he had “stomach problems last night so it was a survival game … that was a long four hours.”

He paid tribute to Lovemore’s strength and speed and revealed that during the final stage “Tom had encouraged me and helped keep me going.”

Herreveld last won the iconic four-day marathon from Paarl to Velddrif 28 years ago. He said that before this year’s event he had hoped to finish, at best, between fifth and eighth.

Von der Heyde said she had been saved when a fellow paddler with a spare cable handed it over to her in a classic “spirit of the Berg” gesture.

After dropping behind stage winner Neriyah Dill soon after the start of the stage, she clawed her way back until the final portage, where she stopped again to check the cable.

Dill got ahead and held her lead to the finish in what she described as “pretty windy conditions in the last eight kilometres.”

Von der Heyde said that after dropping back at the portage she had paddled “to keep Neriyah in view” because she knew she had an eight-minute cushion over the previous three stages.

She described the conditions on Saturday as “fantastic”. “I have done this in a howling headwind … but it was not like that today.”

Several paddlers said they had been spoilt by the conditions on the day.

1 Tom Lovemore 18:39:00
2 Robbie Herreveld 18:40:41
3 Jeremy Maher 18:54:11
4 Msawenkosi Mtolo 18:56:05
5 Heinrich Schloms 19:03:46
6 Siseko Ntondini 19:10:54
7 Thabani Msia 19:18:35
8 Paul Marais 19:20:09
9 Siyanda Gwamanda 19:41:50
10 Divieano Pietersen 20:11:09
1 Stephanie Von Der Heyde 21:59:54
2 Neriyah Dill 22:05:21
3 Tayla Isaac 23:38:46.39
4 Ansune Basson 23:50:43.93
5 Dominique Desmeules 25:20:10.98

Image: John Hishin /Gameplan Media

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