Dougherty's date with destiny
FORM is on his side but Hugh Dougherty must complete the race of his life to overcome champion-elect Shannon Eckstein in Sunday’s final round of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman Series.
Yamba’s Dougherty has been turning heads since bursting into the season with dual second-place showings at the series’ opening two rounds and kept up his form for the Sunshine Coast legs earlier this month.
Tomorrow, Cronulla’s beaches await Dougherty – with series leader Eckstein remaining the man to beat.
Comeback king Ky Hurst will also push Dougherty for a spot atop the podium.
But the 26-year-old knows all he can do is concentrate on his own race.
A round win – let alone a series triumph – would be a huge career highlight for a man who admits he adopted a low-key approach to his training this time around.
“I’m not doing as much training as previous years and maybe just being a bit smarter with the races,” he said of his form.
“If you had told me that I was only six points behind Shannon I would have taken that.
“But realistically I think it’s going to be pretty hard to beat Shannon.”
As for pinpointing the cause of his solid – and surprising – form in 2010, Dougherty doesn’t know what he has done right.
But he plans to just keep doing it.
“It has been good,” he said.
“I started off pretty good with this series. But I don’t know why I have done so well to be honest.
“I guess this year we didn’t have (former series champion) Zane Holmes which has made it a little bit easier but I’m still second and I’ll have another crack at it next round.”
Competitors are expected to meet some choppy conditions on Cronulla’s beaches, which could play into Dougherty’s hands.
He needs some luck to go his way to get past Eckstein.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure (what the weather will be like). Hopefully we get some surf,” he said.
“That would be good because it gives me more of a chance. The flat conditions mean it’s fairly even.
“I’m just hoping to finish ahead of Shannon and hope for the best.”