The World Triathlon Series for 2016 gets underway in Abu Dhabi this weekend and racing features a New Zealand representation in what is this season a standard distance event in the only Middle Eastern location to host a WTS race.
For Nicky Samuels (Wanaka) in the elite women's race it is a welcome return after missing the entire 2015 season thanks to an ongoing problem with her left IT Band that eventually required surgery and a considerable amount of work to get back to the sport she loves with a passion.
"It certainly has been a while, I go back to my last run off the bike being a year and a half ago, I have done a couple this week but apart from that not much so this weekend will be a good tester. It is all about blowing out the cobwebs for me, I haven't raced since August 2014 and that is a long time. I wanted to make the end of last season but didn't quite get there, this race is all about getting back into racing, remembering what to do and when. It is also a tester to see where I am at and the work I have to do thinking of Rio."
Samuels ended the 2014 season ranked at number five in the world so knows that on her best form she is capable of racing with the best in the world. That form may have to wait a while longer than this weekend though as she continues to build back into her training, let alone racing.
"The last couple of months have been awesome, the last one at altitude at Snow Farm was a big block for me, getting up to 27/28 hours a week, I had a really good four weeks up there but I think I need another month of that before I am ready to hit some better times but I am willing to give this a go. I need to start racing this year sooner rather than later because of the time I have been away, the more races I have leading into Rio the better."
Samuels has always been passionate and committed to the sport - in fact everything she does. It is little surprise then that she has turned a tough year into motivation for 2016.
"Coming back from something like that, it is a long time off your job, your career and what you live for. If you do all the hard work through rehab it is a lot of pain and a lot of commitment involved, you then really want to use that. Once you go through all of that you want to get back out and give racing a good go again for sure."
Samuels will be new to Abu Dhabi though, with the race venue on the WTS circuit for the first time in 2015.
"I watched the video last year - my coach Jon Brown gave that to me but apart from that I don't know much more than what is on the website. A flat course, rather hot - maybe similar to Wanaka with a nice dry heat and perhaps a little wind."
Samuels has seen the funny side of her return this week, as she began to pack her bags...
"The hardest thing when you have been out for so long is you forget what to put in your bag! When you are leaving home you have to tick things off as you go - trying to think what I am meant to put in there! But I am looking forward to getting there and getting the first one under the belt and see where I am at."
Samuels will be joined in the women's race by fellow Kiwis Simone Ackerman and recent winner of the Oceania Continental Cup race in Kinloch Rebecca Spence, while in the men's race Ryan Sissons and Sam Ward are on the start line.
For Sissons a top eight finish will essentially confirm his meeting of the Rio Olympic Games qualifying criteria while 21-year-old Ward is on debut in a standard distance World Triathlon Series event as he looks to further his experience at the top level of the sport.
In a tribute to the late Laurent Vidal, the number one positions in the men's and women's start lists have been left open, following the passing of the much loved French athlete and coach late last year.