The 35th edition of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 7 and 8 October has been spiced up by the addition of Spanish marathon ace and reigning Sella Descent champion Kiko Vega to the already stellar start list.
The blond marathon star from Asturias in Spain, the home of the fabled Sella Descent, and winner of the K1 Sella race in 2016, won many admirers in South African paddling circles for his gutsy display on his Berg River Canoe Marathon debut in 2015, where he finished third.
Vega comes into his first Fish with a wealth of international experience, having competed successfully in the Tour du Gudena in Denmark, the Ardeche in France, the Liffey Descent in Ireland, the Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic, the Adige in Italy, Crestuma in Portugal and the Rio Negro in Argentina.
Closer to home Vega’s victory in the K1 race at this year’s Sella Descent was his fifteenth podium finish in the famous Spanish one day race. He has also won races on the Deva, Piloña, Ason, Bidasoa, AltoSella, and Pisuerga on the Spanish summer circuit.
Vega is happy with his form coming into his maiden Hansa Fish.
“I come to South Africa in good condition for the race,” he said from his training base in Asturias.
“What makes it complicated for me is that I do not know that much about the river. I have been using the videos that I have found on the race websites to learn about the Dusi, the Berg and now the Fish.
“I will be arriving at the race with great desire and enthusiasm, knowing that it is one of the top river races in the world,” concluded Vega.
Vega has been brought out to the event by the Euro Steel Team that will also be supporting the likes of Hank McGregor, Andy Birkett, Jasper Mocké and several other elite stars, but the nature of K1 racing on the Hansa Fish means that Vega, while popular amongst the top paddlers, can expect little support from his team mates.
The Hansa Fish has attracted some of the world’s best marathoners to its two day 82 kilometre event, lured by the guarantee of good water, and its accessible course that doesn’t require much pre-race tripping.
Several overseas marathoners have raced onto the podium in Cradock, started by the Spanish marathon legend Manuel Busto finishing third in 2001, Max Hoff and Stefan Stiefenhofer podiuming in the K2 race in in 2006, Hoff second in a K1 in 2009, Tobias Bong and Achim Overbeck in 2011, and Bong partnering Tomas Slovak in 2013.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.