The former champion versus the unsung battler from Burleigh.
The Nutri-Grain Ironman Series is going down to the wire.
Matt Bevilaqua and Ben Carberry will hit the waves at Kurrawa on Sunday equal on points and atop the standings after a day of shock results that began with reigning champion Ali Day’s pre-race withdrawal.
Sidelined by an unknown virus just hours before the penultimate round of the series, second-placed Day was forced to watch on as Northcliffe ironman Bevilaqua claimed third to rocket into equal top-spot alongside Carberry.
Be it nerves or something else, the uber-consistent Carberry picked a poor time to have his worst outing of the series, missing the podium for the first time to finish 10th and leave himself at risk of being overrun in Sunday’s deciding round.
It was an all-Northcliffe podium finish as rising star Joe Collins earned his maiden Iron Series race win ahead of Cory Taylor and Bevilaqua.
Collins’ win drew him to within three points of the joint-leaders, setting the stage for a blockbuster final round at Kurrawa.
“There’s probably no better podium I could have, I actually thought about it when I was racing how cool it would be to have three Northcliffe athletes on the podium,” Collins said.
“To have those 2 guys on there is really special for my first win, they’re both massive influences in my life and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them.”
Though happy for his clubmate, Bevilaqua’s eyes were already on Sunday’s decider and the chance to take his first Iron Series title since the 2017-18 season.
He finished runner-up to Day last year and to Kendrick Louis in 2020.
“I’m still fighting for a Series title against anyone, it doesn’t matter who, and I’ve got a big day coming tomorrow,” Bevilaqua said.
“It would mean the world … I’ve fought so hard over the years to get these Series titles and been second and third a few times, and I’ve won one too.
“I just want to make sure I do everything in my career, and make the most of every opportunity, so tomorrow is an opportunity and I’ve got to go out and take it.”
Meanwhile, it all went to script in the Ironwoman Series with leader Georgia Miller claiming her fourth race win in a row to take a stranglehold on the title race.
The 2018/19 champion, who last year had her series chances ruined by complications due to Covid, looked a class above in the Kurrawa surf on Saturday to take a near-unassailable 13-point lead over Lizzie Welborn into the final round.
“Things definitely didn’t go my way in a few of the races, but I just knew for that final iron I just had to be close (to the) front and work my way through,” Miller said.
“This is one of my favourite (formats). I’ve never been beaten in that format before – this is my fourth win in a row over the years. I’m so stoked, I didn’t think that was going to happen today in these conditions.
“It would be a dream come true to win another series. They are so incredibly hard to win – I’ve been second for quite a few years now. But this year, I just wanted to come out and enjoy myself and hope the results followed, and they have.”
Sunday’s final round from Kurrawa begins at 12pm AEST.
Originally published as Nutri-Grain Ironman: Ben Carberry and Matt Bevilaqua enter final day tied