Swellendam — Mark Keeling and Luke le Roux had to work hard to put themselves into a position to benefit from a couple of lucky breaks and claim their first major victory when they fought back to win the 2023 Breede River Marathon on Sunday.
The pair came from third at the end of Day 1 to secure a 19-second victoy over overnight leaders Ron Benjano and Thomas Lovemore, with pre-race favourite Jeremy Maher and David Evans wrapping up the podium places just over a minute further back.
In the women’s race, Kira Bester and Melanie Van Niekerk extended their narrow overnight lead over the young junior crew of Georgia Singe and Holly Smith to eventually claim a solid victory of almost five minutes, with Christy Shrimpton and Candice Murray finsihing third.
Keeling and Le Roux were somewhat fortunate to benefit from a swim to Maher and Evans at the Waterfall Rapid midway through the final stage from Bonnievale to Swellendam, while Benjano and Lovemore’s challenge for the title ended a couple of kilometres from the finish when they went into a slow channel through the islands near the finish.
However, what was clear is that Keeling and Le Roux had to work hard to put themselves into a position to benefit from their rivals misfortune — and they also had their own problems to overcome.
Early on the first day from Robertson to Bonnievale, the eventual winners spun out at Sliding Weir and were forced to spend most of the opening day fighting back against a group of paddlers and only made contact with Evans and Maher shortly before the overnight stop.
That fightback proved crucial as they were then able to work with Evans and Maher early on day two to catch the overnight leaders and claim the win as their rivals struggled.
“It was a really interesting race,” said Keeling as he travelled home after the prizegiving. “We were a bit lucky to have started with Jeremy and David today because it meant we could work with them to catch the leaders.
“And then after Luke slipped on a portage at Drew Bridge we had to work hard to catch the leading group again.
“But we are pretty stoked to have won the Breede. It is one of South Africa’s major marathons so it is pretty awesome to have won it as my first major race victory.”
Listed under Position, Names, Overall time (Day 1 time, Day 2 time)
1 Mark Keeling / Luke Jean Le Roux 4:16:23 (2:12:23, 2:03:59)
2 Ron Benjano / Thomas Lovemore 4:16:42 (2:11:11, 2:05:30)
3 Jeremy Maher / David Evans 4:18:07 (2:12:21, 2:05:45)
4 Heinrich Van Rooyen / Greg Louw 4:21:44 (2:14:31, 2:07:12)
5 Ben Biggs / Reef Funston 4:21:45 (2:13:03, 2:08:42)
1 Kira Bester / Melanie Van Niekerk 4:50:55 (2:30:23, 2:20:32)
2 Georgia Singe / Holly Shirley Smith 4:55:39 (2:30:39, 2:24:59)
3 Christy Shrimpton / Candice Murray 4:59:48 (2:36:06, 2:23:42)
1 Stephanie Von Der Heyde / Ian Trautmann 4:37:07 (2:21:53, 2:15:14)
2 Chloe Bunnett / Martin Fraser-Mackenzie 4:40:55 (2:25:22, 2:15:33)
3 Peter Cole / Lucia Murray 5:16:16 (2:44:52, 2:31:24)
1 Kenneth Rice 4:46:57 (2:28:55, 2:18:02)
2 Ant Lake 4:46:58 (2:28:55, 2:18:03)
3 James Sharpe 5:17:06 (2:45:44, 2:31:22)