39th Budweis – Prague
The 39th edition of the Budweis-Prague paddling race took place over the weekend in the established three-day format. The first stage was 68 km from České Vrbné to Husárna (Orlík) and the second also 68 km, but it was from Husárna to Ždáň (Slapy). The third day remained the same as usual, 31 km from below Slapy to Prague, so that it could be combined with a short race. A record number of 38 boats of various categories from six foreign countries (Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, Slovakia) took to the start of the long race. For the time being, marathon or sea kayaks still predominate, but paddleboards and canoes were also present. The traditional participants were complemented by quite a few who wanted to try and ride this ultramarathon.
On Friday, immediately after the start, a group of three kayakers, Tomáš Pavlík and Martin Kucián from USK Praha and Tomáš Mareš from KVS Praha, made the front of the race. Tomáš Pavlík decided to go it alone on the Kořensko VD and by the time he reached Podolsko he had a lead of around four minutes. Martin, however, worked hard in the last part of the race and reduced the gap to a minute and a half. Everyone finished the stage, although Petra Vrágová and Petra Horáčková were caught by a strong storm and torrential rain on their paddleboards and so they reached the finish line in almost complete darkness.
Three less competitors started Saturday morning’s leg. Petr Zedník was not feeling well and Petra Horáčková and Petra Vrágová decided that this year it was beyond their strength to complete the whole race. The others started in two waves towards the dam of the Orlík hydroelectric station. The time was stopped at this dam and the competitors crossed it in different ways due to a malfunctioning lift. The following meanders of the Vltava river near Zvírotice and Cholín, other crews besides the front runners decided to shorten the 8 km long run. Some hoped to gain an advantage, others wanted to gain this remarkable experience. In the end, the first two arrived at the finish of the stage to Ždáň together and Tomáš Pavlík strengthened his lead by five seconds over Martin Kucián. The Lithuanian K2 crew also moved up to third place overall thanks to their careful study of the instructional video and map, followed by an excellent long run. Susan Lűtzner and Keld Pilegaard from Denmark were worse off with the efficiency of the run. It cost them a place in the overall standings, but it didn’t spoil their good mood. In the end, all competitors reached the finish line.
On Sunday before noon, the last leg of the race started from below the Slapy dam together with the Slapy – Prague race, which meant that 25 more boats joined the competitors from Budweis on the start line. This fact can often shuffle the overall standings of the race from Budějovice. Shortly after the start a group of Tomáš Pavlík, Martin Kucián and with them Petr Mojžíšek and Tomáš Ježek from the short race formed the front pack. At Davle there was a lot of driftwood and other rubbish in the river, which was catching the racers on their tips and rudders. Martin Kucián took advantage of one such moment, when Tomáš Pavlík was dropping a stuck stick, and he and Petr Mojžíšek went on a breakaway and created a one minute lead before the Vrané dam. Tomáš decided to try a long portage of Vrané on the right and get on at the ferry, but he didn’t close the gap much. However, the escaping duo slowed down at Zbraslav and it was clear to all players that the overall winner would be decided by units of seconds. In the end, Martin Kucián crossed the finish line first ahead of Petr Mojžíšek, but Tomáš Pavlík, with his incredibly bulldog performance, kept his distance from them so much that he scored his fourth victory in the long race Budějovice – Prague with a time of 12:01:49, just 16 seconds ahead of his club teammate! Third overall and first in the K2 category was the Lithuanian duo Vaidas Linkevičius – Arūnas Dubauskas in 12h 39m. Tomáš Mareš won the K1 50+ category with a time of 12h 57m seven minutes ahead of Martin Hřivna from Olomouc. Vojtěch Mareš from SK Modrá Hvězda Pardubice took his personal best of 14h 28m and victory in C1 category. The traditional category of touring canoes was won by the pair Otakar Venta – Stanislav Hamák in a time of 15h 51m. Susan Lűtzner from Denmark was the first among women with a time of 15h 53m ahead of Triin Peips from Estonia. Jan Bělka from RK Týn nad Vltavou won the seakayaks by 17 minutes ahead of Jacob Norris from Denmark. Libor Žlab from Budesport České Budějovice came first among the paddleboards, taking 21h 08m to complete the whole course. The youngest participant of the race so far, Tomáš Ouředník, who at the age of 13 completed the course with his father Robert on C2T, also reached the finish line.
Petr Mojžíšek from USK Praha dominated the short race in 2h 11m, five minutes ahead of his teammate Tomáš Ježek. Third was Tomislav Dědič from Sokol Písek in 2h 18m.
The Budweis-Prague race is alive thanks to the support of ANECT, Regulus, Techdata, Hiko, EL3 Consulting and Pádler magazine. The centenary history of the race continues, of course, thanks to all participants, long or short distance. Budweis-Prague is a race where everyone, whether on the front ranks or at the tail end of the field, reaches into their reserves and at the same time experiences belonging to the community of marathon paddlers. Next time we will be going from Budweis to Prague for the fortieth time, so see you next year!