The 24th edition of the Port of Tauranga Half triathlon will feature the return of defending champions Cameron Brown and Jo Lawn, with both confirmed for the race on January 5.
Without question the two biggest names in the New Zealand long distance triathlon community over the past 15 years, Lawn and Brown are unequivocal in their passion for one of the iconic events on the New Zealand triathlon calendar.
Brown, 40, is a nine-times champion, winning for the first time back in 1998 and couldn't think of being anywhere else to start another year of racing. "This race has been a must-do event for me pre-New Zealand Ironman for the last 12 years. I love the course, the holiday atmosphere, tough competition and the great organisation from Sport Bay of Plenty.
"I've been lucky to win the race nine times now and the next goal is to go for the magic ten, it will be tough to do but I will be giving it my all."
Lawn's eyes light up and her trademark smile beams as she anticipated a return to 'The Mount'.
"I love, love, love this event! The atmosphere here at the mount is incredible. I feel the timing of the event in early January is fantastic. It feels like you're on holiday and doing a training day.
"It is stacked with fun and excitement the entire race course. I feel very privileged to have raced here so many times and I feel very lucky to have been first across the line many times too."
Lawn has tasted success on four occasions at the Port of Tauranga Half and thrives on the support she receives from the huge holiday crowds that line the course.
"The event is so well run, from the volunteers at registration, to aid stations and finish line. Even the crowds feel like they have been organised. The support the athletes get is some of the best cheers I've heard."
The Port of Tauranga Half has the added lustre of being the official Triathlon New Zealand long distance championship, with athletes in all age groups chasing qualification for the New Zealand team for the 2013 ITU World long distance Championships.
The Port of Tauranga Half is complemented by its lead-up event raced in the same location, the Craigs Investment Partners Tinman Standard Distance Triathlon on December 2 - a race that swims, bikes and runs on the same real estate as The Half, albeit just under half the distance.
The irrepressible Brown just keeps getting quicker with each passing year and trains each day thinking of performing well at The Port of Tauranga Half. "It's been a fantastic event for me and always served me well as a great race to do before Ironman New Zealand. I love racing in Tauranga and I still have so much motivation to do well there again this year. It makes me train hard and well through into November and December as I know I need to be in good shape to win and I love training hard through the kiwi summer."
Like Brown, 38-year-old Lawn was named in the top ten Iron distance triathletes of all time (men and women respectively) by respected Inside Triathlon magazine and the two can't wait to train, race and enjoy the holiday surroundings of the Bay of Plenty.
"The race here at The 'Mount' is just awesome. I really do look forward to it each year. For me it is a great way to race at home and in front of familiar faces. It is great to have the support of my sponsors here at the event. With the excitement that Bonita has signed me again for another year and I am truly grateful for their continued support."