outh African river marathon ace, Andy Birkett’s quest to break into the globe’s elite marathon racing group will continue when he takes on a number of the world’s best marathon paddlers at the first ICF Canoe Marathon World Cup event at Prado Vila Verde in Portugal this weekend.
Birkett will repeat what he did in Brandenburg, Germany in 2015 where he took part in both the short and long course events.
Last year’s German assignment saw Birkett win the sprint event and hopes to repeat the feat in Portugal this weekend while aiming to go one better in the long course race, hoping to finish on the top step of the podium.
The former Under-23 Marathon World Champion and 2015 South African K1Marathon champion was disappointed with his efforts at the 2015 World Championships in Gyor, Hungary where he finished sixth in a highly competitive contest and looks to the upcoming World Cup as a chance to hone his Marathon skills ahead of the 2016 global clash.
“I want to gain some valuable racing experience from the World Cup this weekend,” the Euro Steel athlete mentioned.
“With the relatively little marathon experience that I have, I felt that it was important to gain as much knowledge as possible and I think that with a field of around 60 senior men paddlers it will give me a good idea of how strong I am.
“Taking on some of the top paddlers in the world in their conditions is something that I am looking forward to; it will be a big challenge,” he added.
The field for the showdown seems to be shaping up to be a tricky one for Birkett with a handful of the world’s best marathon paddlers set to be on the start line, including recent Berg River Canoe Marathon runner-up and 2015 World Championship K1 silver and K2 gold medallist, Adrian Boros of Hungary.
“It is going to be a really tough race!
“Adrian (Boros) and the other Hungarian guy, Adam Petro as well as European champion and Portuguese star, José Ramalho all on the start line means that it will definitely be a worthwhile trip for me and taking these guys on is going to be exciting.
“We will be missing Hank McGregor and two of the Spanish stars but other than that, it’s pretty close to a World Championship field,” Birkett added.
Birkett has not raced since he finished behind McGregor at the South African Marathon Championships sponsored by Prescient in Cape Town in June.
With another six weeks to go until this year’s World Championships though, Birkett’s build-up to the premier marathon event remains a cautious one.
“My result this weekend will give me a good indication of my current form but we still have six weeks to go until Worlds and the guys won’t want to peak too early, so you won’t be able to look too deeply into this result.
“It has been a while since I last raced and I am really excited to get back into a competitive race.
“The gap between races always means you have a bit of doubt about what level you are at but it will also be exciting to see where I am on race day,” Birkett commented.