Toxic algae in Lake Taupo has thrown a spanner in the works for Ironman 70.3 organisers, but there will be a strong field of women gunning for first place.
The swimming leg of the event has been scrapped due to safety concerns over dense concentrations of algae in the town's famous lake, so athletes will now complete a modified course consisting of a 3km run, 90km bike ride and 21km run.
Laura Siddall is a little tired of standing one step down from the top of the podium and the 37-year-old British athlete could be excused for thinking Taupo has it in for her more than most venues. She was runner-up at the 2016 70.3 Taupo and 2017 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand events.
Siddall will be among one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the 70.3 Taupo event, notable for the presence of 2017 Ironman New Zealand winner Jocelyn McCauley (USA), Aussie starlet Ellie Salthouse, and a host of Kiwis capable of taking the honours from the internationals.
For Siddall, however, those second-place results lead to an even stronger desire to cross the line first tomorrow.
"I've had a few second places this year.
"Of course that drives me in general in my training and racing. You are constantly working for the performance where everything just clicks, and/or you just put it all on the line and get the very best out of yourself and abilities.
"I love Taupo and the races here so would definitely like to go one better come Saturday and it would be very special to do that," Siddall said.
The woman who defeated Siddall in March this year at Ironman New Zealand is again likely to be in her sights. McCauley loved that experience so much, she has returned this week to get another taste of the triathlon mad town.
"I love Taupo and I often visualise myself on this course during a hard workout, it always makes me feel better. Any day in Taupo is a good day.
"After Kona I took three weeks off to be with my family. That is the longest off-season I have ever had and so these last five weeks have been building back base fitness. Five weeks may not seem like that much, but I was in the best shape of my life going into Kona so that fitness is a lot easier to gain back. My main goal in racing is to have fun. If you have a smile on your face things will come a lot easier to you and we do this because we enjoy it," McCauley said.
Siddall won't have eyes only on McCauley though, highlighting the depth of the field this year as the race continues to gain traction with the internationals and locals alike.
"It's really exciting that the field at Taupo gets better and better each year, and I think it is testament to the fantastic community here in Taupo and the work of the event team," Siddall said.
"I think the woman to watch will be New Zealand's own Amelia Watkinson. She's had another great season in Asia and comes off a third place at Asia Pacific Championships a couple of weeks back. She's also a regular on the podium here in Taupo.
"Ellie Salthouse is another class athlete and could definitely take the win while Jocelyn is flying in from the USA and won Ironman New Zealand on this course in March. Then Gina Crawford is back racing so another one to watch, as well as a whole host of New Zealand athletes and some global athletes that are incredibly capable of mixing it up for the podium. I think it's going to be a fantastic race."