In a shake up to the hierarchy of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series Caine Eckstein has won his first Nutri-Grain race, beating Corey Jones and Ali Day in the round one Enduro event at Surfers Paradise today.
The trio outlasted the unheralded Kendrick Louis and the evergreen Phil Clayton as former Series champions Shannon Eckstein, Ky Hurst and Zane Holmes filled positions ninth to 11th.
Surfers Paradise was packed as more than 5000 came to watch the return of the Nutri-Grain Series with fans not leaving disappointed – the 21 strong field turning in an excitement packed race that saw the lead change ten times.
But it was the younger Eckstein, Caine, who stole the show, following his record fifth Coolangatta Gold win earlier in the year with an emphatic victory over the enigmatic Jones and rising star Day.
There was early carnage in the opening board leg with many of the favoured athletes getting off to a slow start.
Holmes, Wes Berg, Mitch Miller, Louis, Hurst and Day all took turns leading over the first six legs before a thickly bearded Jones, who looked like he’d come in from the wilderness, split the field in the second board leg to take a 45 second lead into the second swim leg.
Meanwhile, Caine Eckstein, who had been well back in the field in the first board leg was grinding his way through the pack, tracking Hurst in the first swim leg and then picking off his rivals one by one until the final ski leg when he hit the front for good.
For Eckstein it was chance to prove to his peers that he is more than just a Coolangatta Gold expert. “Yes, it’s great to get the win around Surfers where my brother Shannon and I grew up,” Caine said.
“I’d like to do just as well on the shorter courses and there’s definitely a few things I need to work on, but anything can happen at races like Portsea and Newcastle.
“I do believe I’m in the best position of my career to race against guys like Shannon and Zane who are better over the shorter distances and I’m really excited for the next three weeks to put in more training and give it a real go.”
Jones, who grabbed the seventh and final qualifying spot in this summer’s trial race to earn a berth in the Series, was surprised by his result. He also vowed to keep his beard all summer.
“I did not expect that at all, I had a horrible start as usual and then things just started to go right and I was feeling really well and I was thinking what’s going on here,” Jones said.
“I always thought Caine would catch up as he’s the endurance guru, but still second is just great.”
“One of the boys had a beard at work and it sounded alright. It’s just a different look.
“I’ve never had a beard before and I’ve always wanted to do it and I think I look better with it than without it.
“I’m definitely going to keep it for the series and it will probably be a couple of inches longer than this round, so it’s a bit of fun.”
Caine Eckstein will take the leader’s black bib into round two of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series, which is at Portsea in Victoria on January 8.
Results Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series, Round 1, Surfers Paradise
1 C Eckstein 2 C Jones 3 A Day 4 K Louis 5 P Clayton 6 M Poole 7 W Berg 8 M Miller 9 S Eckstein 10 K Hurst 11 Z Holmes 12 A Tibbits 13 T Trembath 14 C Hill 15 T Lyndon 16 H Dougherty 17 T Atkinson 18 R Drury 19 T Martin 20 J Stewart 21 S Hamilton