New Zealand ironman Cameron Brown will have to beat a strong international field if he is to capture his sixth New Zealand Ironman in Taupo this week.
The top eight seeds for Saturday's race are all from different countries, led by last year's winner Ain-Alar Juhanson of Estonia.
Brown is seeded second ahead of Denmark's world long distance champion Torbjorn Sindballe and top Australian Luke Bell.
The 33-year-old has dominated the event since his first victory in 2001 but only managed second last year after severe weather conditions dramatically reduced the distance of the course.
Brown is looking to become the first ironman to win six titles at the same event, but he is wary of the competition.
"I've beaten several world champions in Taupo over the years but this time there's a bunch of very good athletes," Brown said.
"It's the deepest field that I've ever faced here and I will need to be at my very best. Juhanson and Sindballe are fantastic riders and Luke beat me at Hawaii."
"Last year was a no-win for everyone – the competitors, the volunteers and the organisers. I've put it behind me and just focused on this year which is going to one hell of a race."
Last years champion Juhanson returns knowing a cloud hangs over his victory after rough conditions reduced the race to a half bike-run event.
However, this has made big Estonian even more determined to repeat his success and ruin Brown's party.
"I won the race. But it was not an Ironman. It was not even a triathlon but it was the best that we could do on an awful day," the 30-year-old said.
"I knew I had to come back and lay it on the line in a full Ironman. I think I can still win but I want to win over Cameron in an Ironman."
1. Ain-Alar Juhanson Estonia
2. Cameron Brown New Zealand
3. Torbjorn Sindballe Denmark
4. Luke Bell Australia
5. Rene Rovara France
6. Shingo Tani Japan
7. Kai Hundertmarck Germany
8. Brent Lorenzen United States
9. John Newsom New Zealand
10. Duncan Milne New Zealand
- NZ HERALD STAFF