This weekend's Ironman 70.3 in Auckland also doubles as the Asia Pacific Championship.
These days two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty has to travel a long way to enjoy hometown support, but he is confident the effort to get to the startline for tomorrow's Ironman 70.3 in Auckland will be worth it.
Now based in Santa Cruz, California, Docherty left his young family at home in the United States to come back to New Zealand early this year to acclimatise for this weekend's race, which doubles as the Asia Pacific Championship.
While it is a long way for him to travel for one event, Docherty said he never contemplated missing an opportunity to race back on his "home" patch. "Any opportunity to come back and race in New Zealand I'm going to jump at it so it was always on the cards. I love racing at home and I think having the hometown support is a huge advantage, so I was always coming," said Docherty, who finished runner-up in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Auckland a year ago.
The strength of the field in his first competitive outing of 2014 was also a major drawcard for Docherty as he embarks on his second full year as an endurance athlete. The 36-year-old headlines an impressive men's field for the event, which includes local hopes Terenzo Bozzone and 10 time New Zealand Ironman champion Cameron Brown.
Germany's Jan Frodeno, the 2008 Olympic triathlon champion, defending champion Christian Kemp of Australia and his compatriot Craig Alexander, a five time world champion, are the picks of the international contingent competing.
But the timing of the race when the athletes are looking to build their way into the season leaves the door open for some of the lesser-known competitors to make a name for themselves here. Docherty said with his main focus this year the 70.3 world championships in Mont-Tremblant, Canada and the Kona Ironman he is viewing tomorrow's race as more of a tune-up event.
"I'm still going out to win the event. I'm in good enough shape to do it, but it is a very tricky time of the season and you have to play the game and learn to peak at the right time," he said.
"It's going to be interesting, they've put together an amazing field - I very much doubt I'll see as competitive field as this until the world champs later on in the year. So it's a really good way to kick-start the season."
After making the decision to switch to the endurance distances at the end of 2012, Docherty is pretty chuffed with the progress he has made over the past 12 months, which included a dominant performance in his Ironman debut in Taupo, where he broke the course record, before going on to chalk up 70.3 wins in the US in Boise and Vineman. But like any top athlete, Docherty dwells on the races that didn't go his way - his biggest disappointment being the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii, where he faded badly after struggling to keep down any nutrition.
"It's all a learning curve - the swim, bike and run element of the sport comes naturally. I've had to learn a lot about nutrition, that was my issue in Kona. I'm using these races to learn and sometimes the best way to learn is through your mistakes."
The women's field for tomorrow's race doesn't have the same calibre of international talent, with the female professional division down on entries compared to the men's. There will nevertheless be strong competition between the two Kiwi veterans, Sam Warriner and Jo Lawn, while defending champion Annabel Luxford of Australia will once again be a threat.