Two of the biggest names in the modern era of canoe marathon will be stepping back, making next week's ICF World Championships the first in a new era for the sport.

When seven-time world champion Hank McGregor announced earlier this year he was closing the door on his incredible K1 career, the door flew wide open for a long list of paddlers from all over the world who have chased him home for a decade.

Next week almost everyone on that list, perennial minor-medallists in the McGregor era, will step up to try and take over the crown.

40-year-old Mcgregor has won the past five K1 World Marathon titles. His shock announcement earlier this year that he will only race the K2 at Vila de Prado, Portugal, sent his long-term rivals back out on to the water for extra training sessions.

The men’s K1 will be one of the highlights on a Canoe Marathon World Championship program that will also be missing the biggest name in women’s marathon paddling in the modern era, Hungary’s seven-time title holder Renata Csay.

Before last season, Csay had won six of the previous seven world canoe marathon titles. But she finished out of the medals in Pietermaritzburg, and will also focus only on the K2 in Portugal.

Lani Belcher, last year’s world champion, is also missing, meaning there will be new world champions in both the men’s and women’s competition this year.

Portugal’s Jose Ramalho, a one-time silver and three-time bronze medal winner, will carry the hopes of the host nation in the men's K1.

Adrian Boros, a bronze medallist for Hungary last year, will also challenge, but all eyes will be on McGregor’s K2 partner, Andrew Birkett.

The South African has finished runner-up to McGregor at the past two World Championships, but the big question is how he will adapt to a race without his paddling partner alongside him.

McGregor’s former paddling partner, Jasper Mocke, will be determined to make his mark. He partnered McGregor to K2 world titles in 2014, 2016 and last year.

Hungary’s Vanda Kiszli, Great Britain’s Lizzie Broughton and Ireland’s Jenny Egan are likely to be the major beneficiaries of the absence of Csay and Belcher from this year’s women’s K1.

Kiszli has finished runner-up at the previous two World Championships, Egan was third last year, and Broughton won two K1 5000 metre gold medals at canoe sprint events this year.

Czech Anna Koviskova, a gold medallist in 2015, and Olympians Bridgitte Hartley (South Africa) and Teneale Hatton (New Zealand) will help make the women’s K1 a wide-open race.

Spain’s Manuel Campos has not finished outside the medals in the men’s C2 since 2009, and was world champion in 2012 and 2014.

His biggest challenger this year could be Portugal’s Nuno Barros, a world champion in 2010 and a three-time bronze medallist between 2014-16.

Fellow Spaniard, Manuel Garrido, finished runner-up last year and will be looking to go one better this year, while Hungary’s Adam Docze, winner of the past four C2 world marathon titles alongside Marton Kover, will be the unknown factor next weekend.

In the women’s C1, Ukraine’s Liudmyla Babak will start favourite as she attempts to defend the world title she won in Pietermaritzburg.

The K2 events will give fans a chance to watch the two biggest names in the sport, as McGregor teams up with Birkett in the men’s K2, and Csay teams up with Zsofia Czellai-Voros in the women’s K2.

The 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships begin in Portugal next Thursday and run through until Sunday.

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