Liz Pluimers crosses the line to take out Round 2 of the Ironwoman Series at Bondi (Photo: Mark Donaldson/mdphoto.com.au)
Bondi Beach: A dominant Matt Poole has scored the biggest win of his burgeoning career by taking out round two of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series at Bondi on Friday night.
Poole's victory followed an equally dominant display by Elizabeth Pluimers to win the IronWoman Series race, ensuring both athletes lead the progressive pointscore.
Poole, with his hair dyed pink and resplendent in pink cossies to raise awareness for breast cancer research in his role as an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, won a sprint finish in a thrilling fifth of five eliminator races to defeat Hugh Dougherty and Zane Holmes. Veteran Rhys Drury was fourth.
The cold water – at 17 degrees almost six degrees colder than most of the competitors train in on the Gold and Sunshine Coast – was a major factor on the day but former Sydney boy Poole was a model of consistency, finishing third in the first two races before taking out the last three in the Eliminator format where four athletes fell by the wayside each race.
Series leader Shannon Eckstein, hampered by the cold, finished sixth, his brother Caine was disappointed with his tenth and Olympic open water swimmer Ky Hurst was a shock 16th.
Poole’s win has also propelled him into the series lead with 38 points, two ahead of Dougherty (36), with Shannon Eckstein third on 35, Wes Berg fourth on 31 and Ali Day, Rhys Drury and Caine Eckstein equal fifth on 30.
The win was a continuation in a season of redemption for Poole who burst onto the scene two summers ago by winning a race and finishing third in the series before struggling last year and ending the season disconsolate in tenth overall.
This year he has won the series trial to earn his spot back in the big time, was third behind Shannon and Caine Eckstein in the opening round in Currumbin and for now, is on top of the ironman world, something he has worked hard to achieve.
“Last year I didn’t think my results justified my effort,” Poole, who trains under master coach Michael King at Mooloolaba, said.
“I have put in a lot of work, a lot of tears and a lot of blood and sweat.
“It’s one of the greatest victories ever for me in my young career. To win at Bondi is massive, to win in Sydney is massive and to win in front of mum and dad and all my best friends and my sister and her friends is massive. Gee, it almost brings a tear to my eye.”
While Eckstein refused to make excuses there was no doubt the cold water played a part in his demise in the penultimate race when he didn't have the legs over the sprint finish.
Dougherty was another who struggled with the water temperature but he built his performances each race to grab his first podium finish of this summer after four second placings and a second placed overall finish last season.
For Holmes it was a good result, bouncing back from his 11th at Currumbin and has him on the right track for a solid second half of the series as he continues to recover from back and finger surgeries.
Pluimers put on a clinic for her rivals on the way to taking out the second round of the IronWoman Series, beating out Northcliffe clubmates Kristyl Smith and Courtney Hancock, with Mooloolaba duo of Gemma Newbiggin and defending series champion Alicia Marriott next.
The part time accountant led from start to finish in the eight-woman final on a day when the original 20 starters were whittled to 14 after race one and then culled to eight after race two.
It was Pluimers’ second victory in as many races in this revamped series and she now leads the series with 40 points. Hancock is in second on 36 with Marriott third on 35.
At Currumbin in round one Pluimers battled through the field after a shocking start and came from the clouds in the final board and run legs to overhaul Marriott who had built up what looked like an unbeatable lead. This time things were different.
“The first one (at Currumbin) I felt a little bit bad,” she said of her successful stealth attack on Marriott’s lead.
“I felt like I really didn’t deserve it because I caught that massive wave and pulled up alongside Alicia.
“But today I went out there and led from the front and that felt really good. It proved I should be up there.”
The last time Pluimers won the series – three summers ago – she didn’t win a race, relying on consistent results all year long. This year she is going one better, maintaining consistency while while winning.
Smith and Hancock applied what pressure they could and ensured they are still in contention with three rounds in the series remaining.
The next round – the Enduro format featured in round one – is on December 19 at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
Pluimers said she was looking forward to trying to make it three in a row but knew Coolum could provide big surf and an upset.
“Anything goes at Coolum. The last two times it’s put up such big surf so you can’t rely on anything."
The series now returns to Queensland and the Enduro format on December 19 at Coolum.
Round Two Results – Bondi Beach
KNG Ironman Series
1. Matt Poole
2. Hugh Dougherty
3. Zane Holmes
4. Rhys Drury
5. Wes Berg
6. Shannon Eckstein
7. Ali Day
8. Mitch Miller
9. Tom Atkinson
10. Caine Eckstein
1. Matt Poole 38
2. Hugh Dougherty 36
3. Shannon Eckstein 35
4. Wes Berg 31
5. Rhys Drury 30
1. Liz Pluimers
2. Kristyl Smith
3. Courtney Hancock
4. Gemma Newbiggin
5. Alicia Marriott
6. Allira Richardson
7. Bonnie Hancock
8. Amy Nurthen
9. Brodie Moir
10. Alyce Bennett
1. Liz Pluimers 40
2. Courtney Hancock 36
3. Alicia Marriott 35
4. Gemma Newbiggin 33
5. Kristyl Smith 32
For full results and pointscore, please visit www.surfironmanseries.com