When Hannah Wells approaches the start line at this Saturday's Tauranga Half, she will have visions of a three-peat on her mind.
The event has special significance for Wells as it is her home course, with friends and family set to be on the sidelines.
"The Tauranga Half is my local race so it is always special and a privilege to be a part of," she said.
"With such limited racing at the moment due to Covid, it means even more to be able to line up here at home with so many others. We are very lucky here."
Since winning the 2019 Tauranga Half, Wells has been practically unbeatable.
She won all nine events she entered in 2019 and continued this good form in 2020 winning the Tauranga Half, Ironman 70.3 in Geelong and finishing second at Challenge Wanaka to Czech Republic athlete Radka Kahlefeldt.
After a Covid-19-enforced break for most of 2020, Wells was back to her best in December, winning the Rotorua Suffer and smashing the course record by 21 minutes in the process.
"I had a pretty quiet winter, obviously with no travel or racing," Wells said.
"I stepped training back a bit while we were waiting to see how things would unfold around the world. We made the decision to allow the winter to be an off-season and have stepped up the training over the past six weeks to prepare for our New Zealand season.
"Training has been going really well since and I have entered into the New Zealand race season feeling fresh and ready to go. So I am really looking forward to putting the form to the test out there."
There are several strong challengers to Wells' quest for a Tauranga Half three-peat, including one of the world's best Ironman athletes, Teresa Adam, and last year's runner-up Rebecca Clark, confirmed for the start line at Pilot Bay this Saturday.
Wells is fully aware of the strong challenges she faces.
"Teresa and Becs are very classy athletes and I expect we will be pushing each other out there on race day. It should be a great battle to watch.
"It is great to have other quality female pro athletes to race here in New Zealand and it gives us all a great opportunity to develop as athletes without relying on international racing."
Auckland's Adam is one of the world's best athletes at the full Ironman distance. She won Ironman NZ in 2020 in course record time, and is a two-time winner of the Asia Pacific Champs.
Last year's runner-up Clark is another strong contender for the Tauranga Half title, while the likes of Melanie Burke and Emily McNaughton should feature prominently.
Wells is looking forward to this year's course changes, with the bike course now taking place on the Toll Road, as opposed to Ocean Beach Rd from Mount Maunganui to Pāpāmoa.
"It is going to be flat and fast and I love that we get to race a new course. It is great the organisers are keeping things interesting for the competitors and giving us a new unknown. It will be great to race something new."
The 2021 Tauranga Half takes place on Saturday at Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui. It is the headline event for the Fulton Hogan Mount Festival of Multisport, which has events for people of all ages and abilities.
Fulton Hogan Mount Festival of Multisport, January 23
2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run.
3km swim, 115km bike, 25km run.
3km swim, 115km bike.
Run/walk – 5km, 10km or 21km.