Pietermaritzburg – Sbonelo Khwela and Msawenkosi Mtolo underlined their credentials as potential Dusi winners when the pair notched up a second victory in two weekends of preparation races for the upcoming three-day classic.
At the revamped Geoff’s Road to Second Saddles race on Sunday, Khwela and Mtolo edged out Banetse Nkhoesa and Siseko Ntondini for the second weekend in a row. The major difference in this week’s race compared to the Ozzie Gladwin a week ago on the Upper Umgeni, is that Sunday’s race was over a crucial portion of the actual Dusi Canoe Marathon route on February 15-17.
The winning margin of just 17 seconds shows Khwela and last year’s Dusi runner up, Mtolo, cannot afford any complacency as they add the finishing touches to their preparations over the next few weeks. However, both were on the podium with different partners in the 2022 Dusi (the last K2 race), so have the pedigree and history to mean that on results alone they must be the early Dusi favourites.
Nkhoesa and Ntondini will also take confidence from two second-place finishes, both within a few seconds of the eventual winners, and they will be making plans as to how they can turn the tables on their rivals in next month’s race.
Thabani Msia and Nqobile Makhanya rounded out the podium on Sunday with Kwandokuhle Mzolo and former Dusi champion Thulani Mbanjwa fourth. The top four are all within two minutes of each other which indicates an exciting Dusi in prospect.
In the women’s race, former Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and Hilary Bruss claimed a comfortable win over Nosipho Mthembu and Shannon Parker-Dennison. While the win will be a huge confidence booster for Hartley and Bruss, the small women’s field means they would be foolish to think their victory will mean an easy cruise to the title on February 15-17.
In the singles event Thomas Lovemore recorded a solid victory over Jacques Theron, while a tight mixed doubles race was won by Gary Behn and Jessica Behn, who finished less than a minute ahead of Dave Mckenzie and Helen Buley.
Dusi preparation races take a week’s break as the focus shifts to the Drakensberg for the immensely popular N3TC Drakensberg Challenge on Saturday and Sunday. Then the final two Dusi warm-up races are the rescheduled SMG 50-Miler on February 3 and the Campbells to Dusi Bridge race a day later.
LEADING RESULTS: GEOFF’S ROAD TO SECOND SADDLES
1 Sbonelo Khwela / Msawenkosi Mtolo 1:28:23
2 Banetse Nkhoesa / Siseko Ntondini 1:28:40
3 Thabani Msia / Nqobile Makhanya 1:29:10
4 Kwandokuhle Mzolo / Thulani Mbanjwa 1:29:57
5 Bongani Ntinga / Sandile Mtolo 1:31:06
6 Jeremy Maher / Scott Little 1:31:59
7 Luke Salmon / Jack De Swardt 1:32:38
8 Hlelani Radebe / Raymond Mfanufikile Radebe 1:33:14
9 Smilo Mthethwa / Sanele Mbanjwa 1:35:08
10 Ross Palframan / Murray Behn 1:35:19
1 Bridgitte Hartley / Hilary Bruss 1:43:38
2 Nosipho Mthembu / Shannon Parker-Dennison 1:58:05
3 Amy Hulett / Graham Hulett 2:01:48
1 Thomas Lovemore 1:38:50
2 Jacques P Theron 1:45:13
3 Jack Edmonds 1:50:06
1 Gary Behn / Jessica Behn 1:48:59
2 Dave Mckenzie / Helen Buley 1:49:57
3 Sarah Jones / Tayla Isaac 1:58:38