AFTER taking out last year's Enduro format at Coolum, one could have expected Hugh Dougherty to play a major role in the 2011/12 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman Series' season-opening Enduro race at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.
But a bad start on the board leg and tricky surf conditions had the former Nutri-Grain Series runner-up struggling throughout, battling his way to a disappointing 16th place finish.
"Yeah, I guess it wasn't the most ideal start to the series I was looking for," an honest Dougherty said.
"I think I just had an off day. I wasn't feeling real flash and I just wasn't able to put it together when it counted."
And although Dougherty wasn't the only big name to misfire in round one, the 27-year-old Tugun athlete sees the next round at Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula as vital to his series campaign.
"Hopefully I can turn things around for Portsea," he said.
"I went down there last year in a good position in the series and struggled to a similarly poor finish, so it will be good to have another go and hopefully my luck will change.
"If it throws up the surf, anything can happen and I still feel I'm fit and feel like I'm going all right, so I'm confident I can improve.
"I took a few days off over Christmas, but I've mostly been training hard and preparing for this next round, trying to pick up the pieces and obtaining a better result."
With big names such as Shannon Eckstein, Ky Hurst and Zane Holmes also finishing outside the top eight, the Triple Sprint at Portsea should produce some interesting action.
It was a rare sight not to see Eckstein, Hurst, Holmes or Dougherty in the top three, and Dougherty believes that those currently at the top may struggle to hold onto their advantage.
"Portsea will be more important than ever now, as both I and the other guys try to make up some ground," he said.
"The results were indeed a bit of a surprise and I think everyone thought that.
"In a way, though, I think it's opened the series up quite a bit as you don't have Shannon and Zane one and two way out in front.
"I think there'll now be fairly different results over the six rounds and I think the top five guys in a race won't be able to do it in the following weeks."
The Portsea round is on Sunday, January 8 with the Ironwoman race starting at 1pm, with the Ironman to follow at 3pm.
Television coverage is on Network Ten from 2-5pm.