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Kiko Vega brings Spanish flair to 2020 Drak Challenge

The top-10 finisher last year motivated to improve on 2019 debut

Spanish ace paddler Kiko Vega has confirmed plans to have another tilt at the N3TC Drak Challenge in 2020, which this year will take place on February 1 and 2.

The veteran blond-haired flyer is a former winner of the iconic Sella Descent in his home country, and has become fascinated by the unique calendar of river marathon races in SA.

Kiko Vega in action during last year’s N3TC Drak Challenge. The Asturian, who will also take on this year’s Dusi Canoe Marathon, will be back to race his second Drak at the beginning of February. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

He has raced onto the podium at the Berg and Fish River Canoe Marathons, but turned heads last year when he made his debut on a very technically demanding, low, Mzimkhulu River and finished seventh in the Southern Drakensberg classic.

Hoping for a title at Drak Challenge title

“The standard of racing is very high at the Drak,” said Vega from a wintery Spain.

“The rapids are rocky and it is easy to make mistakes, and the level of racing is so high that mistakes cost a lot of time and places.

Drak again

“This is one of the biggest races in South Africa and I am happy to be able to take leave to come and race the Drak Challenge again,” he said.

Vega was excited to get backing from the local Euro Steel team, and suppliers Set Kayaks and Gara paddles to ease the logistics of the trip from the northern hemisphere.

Spanish paddler Kiko Vega (centre) with local elite racers Alan Houston (left) and Bridgitte Hartley (right) at last year’s N3TC Drak Challenge. Picture: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

Last year he was bowled over by the local hospitality, as Underberg residents helped with accommodation, transport and guided him down the river to recce the technical sections of the course, tucking in behind paddlers like Olympian Bridgitte Hartley on these training sessions.

Vega said he was hoping for more water than the race had last year, as this would negate the local advantage and make the race far tighter.

The Asturian has recently been appointed to a senior coaching position in Spain and will return home straight after the Drak Challenge before flying back to SA for the Dusi Canoe Marathon at the end of February.

Kime and Rubenstein bring pedigree to Dusi challenge

He follows a number of international elite paddlers who had enjoyed success at the two-day Drak event.

In 2007 German ace Max Hoff became the first foreign champion of the race when he led a contingent from the German wild water training squad to success on a low Mzimkhulu River.

Respected international marathoners Adrian Boros, Jakub Adam and Anna Koziskova have all made their marks on the race.

The N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon takes place in Underberg on February 1 and 2, 2020. More information can be found at www.drakadventure.co.za

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