Caine Eckstein to start in Goldie Classic 

IRONMAN great Caine Eckstein has given his tick of approval to Newcastle gaining three rounds of the national ironman series over Portsea as he builds his comeback to the circuit with a hit-out at Redhead on Sunday at the Goldie Classic.
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Australia’s premier endurance surf ironman, Eckstein yesterday confirmed that he would race at the third annual running of the 19-kilometre Goldie Classic.

Securing the five-time Coolangatta Gold winner is a major coup for the growing ironman event and comes after confirmation Newcastle beach will host three rounds of the national series on December 14 and 15.

Smiths Beach in Western Australia will host the opening two rounds on November 30 and December 1 before rounds three, four and five are held at Newcastle on December 14-15. The final round will be at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast on February 23.

Newcastle have hosted a round the past two years but were set to miss out this summer in a cost-cutting restructure of the series from six to three stops.

However, Portsea in Victoria was ruled out due to work on access to the beach, putting Newcastle back in the picture.

Eckstein won the series in 2011-12 but then took a year away from the sport to concentrate on triathlon.

He is back this summer as a wildcard entry and is glad he will be heading to Newcastle to compete.

‘‘I was pretty happy hearing that because I think originally they were going to Portsea instead,’’ Eckstein said yesterday.

‘‘But if I had to chose between Newcastle and Portsea, I’d definitely chose Newcastle.

‘‘It’s always tricky there and although you always want big surf, you don’t want it to be crazy big.

‘‘Newcastle always has that solid swell and it’s really tricky. It’s just like what me and my brother Shannon had growing up at a Surfers Paradise beach. You always had wild conditions everyday.

‘‘And the water’s not as cold in Newcastle as it is in Portsea.’’

The series will consist of 16 men and 16 women competing in a variety of formats and distances.

An important part of Eckstein’s preparation will be the Goldie Classic.

The 27-year-old from the Gold Coast was to return to surf ironman at the Coolangatta Gold two weeks ago but he withdrew after blood tests showed his heavy training workload was bringing on a recurrence of the Epstein Barr virus.

He had four weeks off with the illness but has been back in training the past fortnight and keen to test himself at Redhead.

‘‘When I was going to do the Coolangatta I always had this event in mind, but you have to see how you pull up from it before committing,’’ he said.

‘‘But after not doing Coolangatta, it’s definitely good. You need to have a hit-out before the Kelloggs, which is in about five weeks, so it’s perfect.

‘‘After a race like that, hopefully the 40-minute race a few weeks later will feel a bit easier.’’

Goldie race director Boyd Conrick said Eckstein expressed interest six weeks ago but was ecstatic to have the champion as a confirmed starter yesterday.

‘‘He’s the best endurance ironman out there, so we couldn’t be happier,’’ Conrick said. ‘‘If we had to pick anyone, we would have chosen him.’’

Coolangatta Gold runner-up Nathan Smith is another potential starter at Goldie.

CHAMPION SIGNING: Caine Eckstein will race in the Goldie Classic at Redhead beach on Sunday. Picture: Delly Carr

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