Grand Prix Expectations

An inside look ahead to the 2014 Whitewater Grand Prix's weekend finale

- After four stages, with two remaining, the author is currently in a tie for 17th place. Click HERE to see the full current standings.

2014 Whitewater Grand Prix

The tribe gathers. Photo: John Rathwe

BY CHRIS GRAGTMANS

The 2014 Whitewater Grand Prix got off to a timid start, but has rolled into fine form and not disappointed! The stages have all been action-packed, and the best in the world have certainly risen to the occasion. Not all is as expected, however. Here’s a few surprises, notes and observations before I sign off to go run a massive rapid:

Risk factor. The danger and fear levels have been significantly lower in this third running of the Grand Prix. Day One set the tone with a beautiful, sunny day at Gladiator at a lower level that put athletes at much less risk of getting flushed into “The Ledge.” Those surfs were more about fun and camaraderie, and much less about survival than last time. The competition continued with a gripping but safe Stage Two Boatercross on the Rouge River, and a Stage Three Time Trial creek course (highlight footage below) that was challenging and visually impressive, but that was buttoned-up well with safety.

Swim Count. This is staying pretty consistent with the inaugural 2011 Grand Prix, because everyone is pushing themselves! I believe that the current number is nine (Lou, Sandra, Nick, Bren, Tino, Joel, Mathieu, Hannah, Martina). By far the most heinous of these was Nick Troutman’s swim out of a horrible lowhead dam on the Shawinigan River (above the race course). I did not witness this in person, but the footage sent chills down my spine. It was a sobering reminder that even the best kayakers should stay away from manmade features and lowhead dams.

Roster Flux. For a number of reasons, the Grand Prix has seen a lot of change of the roster: Steve Fisher couldn’t make it up to the event; Eric Jackson did the first event and then went back to the Southeast; Ben Marr hurt his shoulder; Lane Jacobs hurt his ribs; Jakub Nemec dislocated his shoulder; and a couple of the other athletes have injuries that they are dealing with. This event is a marathon, and keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy is one of the most challenging aspects of it.

Timing. We are now in Lac St. Jean, and it feels like winter here. It is freezing outside, and massive chunks of ice are floating down the rapid in front of our hotel. The lake is still completely frozen, and the rivers have only broken about a week ago. Everything is still very much on its way up, so levels are tricky right now. The tentative schedule moving forward is two big wave events (one yesterday on the Black Mass wave of the Mistassibi, with Stage Five on for tomorrow, location TBD), and the final Giant Slalom race occurring on the Basse Cachee River near Quebec City. This river is one of my favorites in Quebec, and should be a fantastic finale to the event.

Competitors. Dane Jackson has been demonstrating that he is the best overall kayaker on the planet, and is sitting in a strong position competitively. Tino Specht, the Chile/American hybrid has been the dark horse of this event. Tino trains on the Maipo River in Chile with the Astorga family, and is an incredible athlete and competitor. Currently in second, I look forward to watching his performance for the rest of the Grand Prix, as well as the West Coast events this summer. I expect to see Nick Troutman, Devyn Scott, Kalob Grady, and Marcos Gallegos climb from their current positions since they are nothing short of wave aficionados. Montreal local Ian Vogel will also put forth some strong performances in the freestyle front. I predict that Gerd Serrasolses will win the Giant Slalom event and retain his current Top 5 position in the Grand Prix. And I certainly hope to keep battling back from my horrible Boatercross finish to finish strong!

Here’s some footage of Dane’s winning ride from yesterday’s Stage Four Big Wave Challenge, where athletes had six rides; judges scoring their best three-trick ride. Joel Kowalski followed in second place and Nick Troutman took third. Hannah Kertesz (USA) took the stage win on the women’s side, followed by Adriene Levknecht and Martina Wegman.

WOMENS TOP 5 OVERALL AFTER FOUR STAGES (Click HERE for full results)
1. Martina Wegman (NLD) [23pts]; 2. Mariann Saether (NOR) [20pts]; 3. Adriene Levknecht (USA) [18.5pts]; 4. Sandra Hyslop (GBR) [17pts]; 5. Nicole Mansfield (USA) [14.5pts]

MENS TOP 10 OVERALL AFTER FOUR STAGES
1. Dane Jackson (USA) [109pts]; 2. [tie] Rush Sturges (USA) [93pts], Joel Kowalski (CAN) [93pts]; 4. Tino Specht (USA) [87pts]; 5. Nick Troutman (USA) [85pts]; 6. Marcos Gallegos (CHL) [83pts]; 7. Gerd Serrasolses (ESP) [76pts]; 8. Kalob Grady (CAN) [73pts]; 9. Bren Orton (GBR) [71pts]; 10. [tie] Bryan Kirk (USA) [67pts], Aniol Serrasolses (ESP) [67pts], Devyn Scott (CAN) [67pts]

CLICK HERE for a report from the Whitewater Grand Prix at its halfway mark.
CLICK HERE for Stage 1 Best Trick results.
CLICK HERE to see an insider’s perspective on the top contenders for the 2014 title.

Stay tuned CanoeKayak.com for Stage result recaps, and click HERE to follow the official coverage of the 2014 Whitewater Grand Prix.
Click HERE to read about last year’s historic Ottawa River runoff
And HERE to read about the last 2012 Grand Pix in Chile.

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