Poole on the hunt for Eckstein in Ironman Series
"MIRACLE" man Matt Poole is stalking a lone wolf who has returned to the pack ahead of the opening round of the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series this month.
The Mooloolaba star has surprised himself by recovering from a broken leg and will again be among the favourites to win the coveted title.
One of his main rivals will be Northcliffe star Caine Eckstein, the 2011-12 series winner and a competitor whom Poole likens to a lone wolf, due to his past preference for solo training.
However, another of Poole's main rivals, seven-time and reigning series champion Shannon Eckstein, said his brother was training fulltime at Northcliffe.
Caine returned to surf lifesaving this year after an unsuccessful dalliance with ironman triathlon.
The five-time Coolangatta Gold champion was a late withdrawal from that event last month, and Poole said he had not spotted him at the two recent events.
However, he expected him to be in great shape at the series' opening two rounds on November 30 and December 1 at Margaret River's Smiths Beach.
"He's a very, very mentally tough athlete - physically very strong and fit," 25-year-old Poole said.
"I'm sure he'll be wanting to push the pace and see who can go with him.
"I pretty much analyse all the top guys and watch them as much as I can, but Caine always seems to fly under the radar.
"I'm not sure why, because he's one of the sport's greatest athletes."
The last time Poole competed against Eckstein was in Channel 9's Deep Water program.
Poole's involvement in the program ended prematurely when he fractured his leg while filming in late August.
"I was fortunate enough to race him (Eckstein) in WA a couple of times and he was playing his strongest cards to his advantage - and that's fitness and endurance," Poole said.
FOURTH overall in last season's series and second in 2010-11, he expects to arrive at Margaret River about 90% fit.
He hopes this weekend's $30,000 Maroochy Surf Classic will provide him with a confidence boost as he looks to "rattle a few cages" this season.
He is feeling more relaxed than usual about competing - perhaps because he has fewer expectations due to his stunted preparation.
"I'm going into the series pretty relaxed, which is sometimes when I do some of my most dangerous racing," he said.
Many of the sport's biggest names are expected to descend on Maroochydore this weekend.
Shannon Eckstein will be there, but his brother will not.