One of the Dusi Canoe Marathon’s most important qualifying races the 50 Miler will see some of the top contenders fight it out for early season honours when they tackle an important stretch of the Msundusi and Mngeni Rivers on Saturday, 11 January.
The route is 38km long and incorporates some of the Dusi day one and day two’s most important rapids and obstacles, giving paddlers a chance to take on the likes of Mission rapid, the Confluence, the Big Three rapids of Thombi, Gumtree and Hippo Rocks and the infamous Nqumeni Portage in racing conditions.
The race has also guaranteed a water release from Henley Dam which will also give paddlers a chance to race on close to Dusi conditions, seven weeks out from the three day epic at the end of February.
“The 50 Miler is always an important race because we have very few chances to go tripping these days,” the experienced Thulani Mbanjwa said.
“Also the 50 Miler is a race where you will always see the top Dusi crews and so you can get a good idea of who is going to be paddling with who and how you shape up against them.
Mbanjwa has teamed up with another former Dusi champion in Sbonelo Khwela and the pair will be keeping a close eye on all the other combinations going into this year’s 50 Miler as they try to assess what sort of shape they are in seven weeks out from Dusi.
“I always feel like you need to race hard at the pre-Dusi races and we are going to make sure that we do everything we can to stay with the top guys.
“If you have trained hard and stay with the top guys then you are on the right track but if you have trained hard and get dropped, you are in trouble!” he laughed.
While many of the elite K2 crews will be looking to cement their Dusi seedings at the race, many also choose to play their cards close to their chests, mindful of the popular belief that winning the 50 Miler compromises your chances of a Dusi win a month later.
The 50 Miler this weekend will have a distinct Dusi flavour to it with the inclusion of the Cabbage Tree Portage as an option for paddlers, but the Finger Nek and the first Saddles portages will not be available to the 50 Miler participants.
The weekend of Dusi training will include a shorter race from Mfula Store to eNanda on Sunday, taking full advantage of the water in the system. There are hopes that rain forecast for Friday will further boost the river levels for the two races on the weekend.
The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place for 27 to 29 February 2020.