Courtesy of surfironmanseries.com
Reigning champion Shannon Eckstein has kicked off his Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series title defence in style by taking out the opening round of the new season at Currumbin on the Gold Coast. The 27-year-old was too good for his younger brother Caine and Mooloolaba’s Matt Poole.
Eckstein was never further back than second place over the entire two hour Enduro event that saw the top 20 ironmen in the world complete the ski-run-swim-run-board-run course twice, racing out through the surf and in through the tricky conditions in the Currumbin river mouth.
After his victory, Eckstein, who won by just over 40 seconds, claimed the victory was one of the sweetest of an illustrious career that has seen him win five Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series titles and three world championship golds after critics had questioned his ability over the longer course.
“Yes, that was one of the best wins of my career. I get annoyed when people say I can’t do the Enduro format or the longer races because I’m not just a sprinter,” Eckstein said.
“I can do these longer races and I showed it. I came first and Caine came second because we train the hardest and I don’t have a problem saying that.”
Caine, the four-time Coolangatta Gold king, had no excuses, paying tribute to his older brother.
“Shannon was too good today but I’m stoked, second is awesome,” Caine said.
“He is just so skilled in the surf and to be honest Shannon deserved to win. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to have caught a wave in that last board and beaten him but he did deserve it more than me today.”
Poole was another who was over the moon with his performance and was already looking forward to the next round at Bondi on December 3. The 22-year-old former Sydneysider, who now trains at Mooloolaba, was neck and neck with Caine Eckstein for most of the race before losing touch in the latter part of the last swim leg.
“I’m stoked but the pain is almost unbearable,” Poole said.
“I felt comfortable most of the race but I dropped my guard and missed a wave and Caine got it. I was almost angry with myself then.
“But it’s a great to kick start a series with a third and a good way to get going in the season. I’m obviously not going to stop here and I want to improve. I want to keep this up over the four rounds to go and I can’t wait.”
In the Ironwoman Series, Elizabeth Pluimers produced an inspired final run leg to finish just ahead of Alicia Marriott, with Courtney Hancock finishing third.
Pluimers overcame a shocking start in the opening ski leg to bring back the field throughout the ski, run and swim, before hitting the water about 100 metres behind Marriott at the start of the board leg.
It appeared that Marriott, the defending series champion, would streak away with the win but Pluimers had other ideas, pulling onto a powerful wave in the river mouth to erase Marriott’s massive lead in a matter of 20 seconds.
From there it was a sprint over the closing 800m run leg and Marriott couldn’t keep pace.
Pluimers said she was surprised to have caught Marriott after she led by so far.
“I am surprised to have won,” Pluimers said.
“The whole week I was looking forward to this race because it’s something that has been done before with the river mouth and this distance.
“Going out I got hit by a few waves and had to roll but luckily enough I was coming around the last marker buoy I got a wave. That’s surf and it can either go for you or against you. Today it went for me.”
Pluimers said although she was surprised to eventually win she liked chasing the field down.
“It is tough to come from behind but I like to chase, I don’t like to be the rabbit,” Pluimers said.
“I guess I am the rabbit for now though heading into the next race.”
Marriott looked distressed after the race and said she was not happy with her final result.
“It was a really tough hard race and I am a bit disappointed with my result,” Marriott said.
“It’s tricky with the river mouth knowing whether to go wide or take the shortest route – I took the shortest route and I obviously made a mistake.”
Earlier, Ken Wallace, Emma Moffatt and Grant Davies combined to win the inaugural Legends Series teams race.
For further information on the 2010/11 KNG Ironman Series and Ironwoman Series visit www.surfironmanseries.com