Lacy swoops as ironman stars strike early trouble
JAMES Lacy has sealed a breakout win in the Nutri-Grain ironman series in a race notable for the failure of stars Shannon Eckstein, Matt Bevilacqua and Ali Day to make the final of the eliminator format.
Mermaid Beach ironman Lacy finished third in last year's series and announced himself as a contender for the crown with his maiden victory, where he won a sprint up the beach against Kurrawa's Matt Poole and Manly's Australian ironman champion Kendrick Louis.
The man dubbed "long legs Lacy" was able to beat noted sprinter Poole, who was hoping for a win at his home beach, to the line to claim his first win.
Defending series champion Bevilacqua was shattered at his 14th-place finish in the Queenscliff opener but the real shock came with Eckstein having to be helped off the beach with a suspected calf injury after the opening leg of the opening eliminator race.
It leaves the nine-time series champion with a 20th placing in the opening race and on tenterhooks until he has scans to reveal the extent of his injury, having announced this will be his final season as a professional.
Lacy said he had not been overly confident heading into the first race of the season but was thrilled to come away with a win.
"I'm stoked to start the season off like that and to make it through all three rounds with that result," Lacy said.
The 23-year-old had to survive three races in the eliminator format, while Poole and Louis were able to skip race two after their top-two finishes qualified them automatically for the final.
A modest Lacy reluctantly admitted a series win was a realistic goal.
"It's one of my goals but I'm just focusing on each race, I know it's a cliche but I'm just taking it one round at a time," he said.
"The way the points system is, you've got to be consistently in that top five to be competitive."
Northcliffe's Maddy Dunn broke a three-year drought to win the women's race, beating club-mates Georgia Miller and Harriet Brown, who, like Poole and Louis, skipped race two after earning automatic qualification for the final.
Just two weeks after completing the gruelling Coolangatta Gold, Dunn felt wretched ahead of the race but won a sprint finish to beat her more vaunted clubmates.
"Last year I had a shocking year and it's good to come back and have a good race," Dunn said.
Dunn had to race Friday's heats to even qualify for the final and was is now in prime position to claim one of the six extra finals qualifying places on offer for the leaders after Round 3.
"It's always nice not to have to race to qualify," she said.