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Eksteen best of SA trio

Three South African men fought valiantly in triathlon’s World Series Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia at the weekend.

Claude Eksteen placed a solid 27th, Erhard Wolfaardt finished strongly to take 32nd and Hendrik De Villiers fought all the way to place 48th of 55 competitors.

A picture-perfect day greeted the Elite men. The swim was a fight to the first buoy with competitors pushing to make front pack and only 260m to sort the pecking order.

Lap one saw Wolfaardt first of the South Africans, safely in the front pack. Eksteen was just off the back of the pack, two seconds down and De Villiers still struggling to get back to his best, 10 seconds further back.

With the swimmers strung out in a long line, swimming was easier on lap two, Wolfaardt and Eksteen made good metres and were set for a great race in the front pack, 25 seconds later and in good company (Tim Don and Brad Kahlefeldt) Hendrik exited the swim.

The bike was fast for the first four laps with the favourites keeping the pace high and the chase pack working really hard to get back into the race.

Once the chase pack joined the front bunch the pace slowed and tactics started to change, all the race favourites feeling each other out. This gave the lesser known athletes their opportunity and a two-man breakaway with Pais (Portugal) and Sapunov (Ukraine) getting off the front, over the last 3 laps they were to build a 1:15 lead, sensing an opportunity, known string men on the bike, Reed (USA) and Tichelaar (Canada) also got off the front. A huge effort saw them almost bridge to Pais and Sapunov setting up an interesting run leg.

With the four hares out front the race favourites made their move early, Brownlee, Gomez, Frodeno, Petzold, Docherty and Gemmel all moving to the front to chase hard. Eksteen and Wolfaardt were well placed in mid pack to make a late charge. De Villiers struggled on the run and it was mission accomplished to be back in the mix at the top and to look forward to making it back to the top during 2010.

The pace on the run was unrelenting, Brownlee taking the lead early in lap three, Gomez right on his shoulder and Frodeno the Olympic champion 10 seconds down. Eksteen fought hard to move into 24th and Erhardt was looking stronger as the race went on moving into the top 40.

The last lap saw Brownlee winning his fifth World Championship Series race, surging ahead of Gomez, the reigning World Champion, with Frodeno grabbing third spot.


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