By: Capo Rettig // World Class Academy
Rain entered the Ottawa River Valley and followed the WWGP team as they traveled east into the province of Québec, bringing with it the anticipation of a high water Stage Two Boatercross on the Rouge River.
The Boatercross format is the wild card event of the WWGP, an event where it is hard to choose a favorite in your bracket. Racers get spun out, pushed into seams, slowed down by crashing waves, and consequently end up running lines they would not normally run.
Boatercross Chaos // Photo: Jasper Gibson
// Photo: John Rathwell
Current leader Mariann Saether (NOR) coming through the course during the Individual Timed run // Photo: Jasper Gibson
Men’s #WWGP Stage Two Winner Marcos Gallegos (CHL) leading and rocketing off one of the features on the Rouge River // Photo: Jasper Gibson
To create the bracket, each athlete was timed on a run through the course and seeded in one of four heats based off this time. The heats held seven racers and the top four finishers advanced in a total of three rounds. The final round held ten racers.
“My goal is to try and place at least top-ten and not get hurt,” said Rush Sturges who made the final round and eventually went on to place 4th overall. “Pure chaos in there.”
The course was a long one, consisting of crashing diagonal waves and a few big features to dodge that led down into ‘The Gauntlet’. Once through this crux move, athletes were forced to charge into the river right eddy through several powerful features. Precision, strength, and big water comfort played an important role in the outcome.
However, the rhythm of the river often became the final decision maker of the race.
Heat after heat saw the shuffling of athlete positions late on the course, often times while the racers began stroking hard for the eddy.
The women racers received a standing ovation from those at the finish line who saw the final sprint into the eddy. Martina Wegman ended up in the top position with smooth clean strokes through the madness followed by Sandra Hyslop who, with gritted teeth, made the last technical move around the hole that blocked the eddy line propelling herself towards the finish line.
“I really like the where the finish line was placed,” said Sandra. “It is technical and forces you to be in control until the end.”
True to the script, the men’s final heat was a battle to the end.
Coming into the gauntlet of waves, holes, and seam-lines, athletes became entangled in one floating mass of plastic, carbon, and failing hopes of a strong finish.
“I was completely backwards and wedged between two kayaks,” said racing connoisseur Evan Garcia, who placed top three in all of the racing events of the 2011 WWGP. “My stroke wouldn’t bite water, just plastic, spray skirt, and the deck of Rush.”
Evan Garcia (USA) free of the pack and enjoying the ride [ #brown ] // Photo: Jasper Gibson
The emotional roller coaster of a Boatercross race was well described by WWGP veteran Joel Kowalski. “Boatercross…… feels like heartbreak.”
Joel ended the race with a second place finish with Chilean Marcos Gallegos using power and precision to pull off a first place finish. After the race he pounded his chest feeling vindicated after what he felt was an underperformance at the Stage One Best Trick Contest. Chunks of granite slabs hid late pockets of melting spring snow and voices reverberated off the cliff bands as athletes energized by the day’s events paddled away from the course, completing the second stage of the WWGP.
Marcos Gallegos (CHL), Joel Kowalski (CAN), Dane Jackson (USA) // Photo: Capo Rettig
Big thanks to Benoit and everyone at Nouveau Monde Rafting for their hospitality to the WWGP group during the time on the Rouge River. Also thanks to Bruno from ABV Rafting for their access.