15-17 February 2024

McGregor shows Dusi form with Ozzie Hat-trick

 Hank McGregor framed himself as a serious MyLife Dusi contender with an emphatic win in the Lighthouse Designs Ozzie Gladwin, making it a hat-trick of wins at the popular race on the Upper uMngeni River.
 Racing against a men’s field brimming with a number of Dusi challengers, the 43 year-old Euro Steel racer McGregor broke away at the front with former Dusi winner Thulani Mbanjwa of the MyLife team and fast-rising star Stew Little.
 The trio raced away across the Gumtree Flats, and when they had to exit the river for a compulsory portage around a tree-block below the Wartberg Road bridge, McGregor made his move and cantered away over the last three kilometres of river to post his third win in a row at this popular race.
 “Being so close to Dusi – the Ozzie is normally the first big race of the year and now it is just before the Dusi – I am really happy to take the win,” said McGregor.
 “I have also just enjoyed racing again and appreciating the races when we get the opportunity.
 “We all got hit quite hard with Covid and to race today with perfect weather and a full river, and to be able to paddle across the dam at the start with top paddlers, makes me really happy,” he added.
 McGregor said his sights were now firmly on the MyLife Dusi starting on 18 March.
 “It is such an awesome event so I plan to just enjoy the vibe,” he said. “Dusi is such a big part of our culture in paddling so I am stoked to be involved and participating.”
 Little pounced on his opportunity after the last portage to secure second place for the young Euro Steel/Varsity College speedster to wrap up second place overall and the first Under 23 home, with the veteran Mbanjwa now far off his rudder.
 In the women’s race the field was smaller, with Dusi challenger Jenna Ward opting not to race as the she rehabilitates her ankle, leaving the door open for Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and teenager Saskia Hockly to stamp their mark on the race.
 Hartley showed all her patience and strength to share the lead with Hockly for the first half of the race before putting her foot down to race away to a comfortable lead.
 “It was nice to push it on the run because that mimics the Dusi,” said Hartley.
 “With about ten kilometres to go I decided to try and push myself a bit harder and then run the second portage harder.”
 “Being so close to Dusi you don’t want to push it too much, but it was good to get some more distance and make sure you are not getting stale,” she added.
 “I find it really hard to taper, so between now and Dusi I will hold back a little bit but try to keep the body sharp!” she said.
 A big field of close on 400 paddlers took part in ideal mild conditions with good water flow in the uMngeni River, making it an ideal final preparation for the MyLife Dusi in ten days’ time.
 1 Hank McGregor 1:55:57.57
 2 Stewart Little 1:56:24.76 (1st U23)
 3 Thulani Mbanjwa 1:56:51.44
 4 Alex Masina 1:59:15.19
 5 Hunter Houston 1:59:42.10
 6 Nqobile Makhanya 1:59:43.57
 7 Thabani Msia 2:00:03.31
 8 Scott Little 2:00:13.19
 9 Banetse Nkhoesa 2:00:50.34
 10 Matthew Millward 2:00:59.06 (1st U18)
 11 Msawenkosi Mtolo 2:03:11.79
 12 Owen Gandar 2:03:53.38
 13 Zethule Lucas Mthalane 2:04:22.11
 14 Grant Van Der Walt/Pippa McGregor 2:04:42.04 (1st MD and K2)
 15 Jarryd Walker 2:05:57.02
 16 Sandile Mtolo 2:05:57.89
 17 Sbonelo Khwela 2:06:19.78
 18 Mvelo Ngidi 2:06:20.09
 19 Joshua Simpkins 2:06:26.58
 20 Murray Behn 2:06:40.78
 1 Bridgitte Hartley 2:14:06.24
 2 Saskia Hockly 2:17:05.85
 3 Abby Adie/Aadila Kajee 2:23:39.29
 4 Georgina Howard 2:24:16.83
 5 Tracey Van Greunen 2:27:41.07