Participants in the 2021 edition of the Mount Festival of Multisport will have the opportunity to cycle on a unique new course.
The bike course has traditionally been on Ocean Beach Rd from Mount Manganui to Pāpāmoa.
However, in 2021 the multi-lap circuit and speed humps of Ocean Beach Rd will be a thing of the past, with bikes set to race the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road, thanks to the planning support of new naming right sponsor Fulton Hogan, and approval by Waka Kotahi and Tauranga City Council.
This fast new bike course will be used for the Tauranga Half, Enduro and Aquabike events on the Fulton Hogan Mount Festival of Multisport programme, which takes place on January 23, 2021.
Festival general manager Lauren Watson described the change to the bike course as "really exciting news for the event".
"It is going to be a unique experience for athletes, as no other triathlon event in New Zealand rides on a closed highway," she said.
"It will be a 'money can't buy' experience for athletes for all abilities, being able to ride on such a fast surface. In the elite field, they will be flying."
This major change to the bike course has been brought about through the desire to continually improve the event, to ensure the safety for the athletes as resident traffic in Pāpāmoa is growing, and to decrease the impact on the community.
"When looking at all aspects of the race, this new course ticks all the boxes and ensures the safe sustainability of the event," Watson said.
Temporarily closing a highway for an event is no easy feat and the management of traffic is a key role Fulton Hogan is playing.
"Without their support, this would not have been possible. They are a company who understand the value this event brings to the region and have worked with us on ways to develop and improve it."
In announcing their sponsorship of the Mount Festival of Multisport, Fulton Hogan's Bay of Plenty regional manager Anita Varga said: "Fulton Hogan is proud to be a major sponsor of such an iconic event in Tauranga.
"As a Kiwi-made business, we hope the refreshed changes to this event bring even more visitors/competitors to our fantastic region.
"Traffic management is such a central part of the ability to run this event, and we will have seven teams with a minimum of 17 staff working on the day. We're locals supporting locals, caring for the communities in which we live and work, especially in these challenging times."
Fulton Hogan has supported the event for 13 years and Varga said it was a logical step to move up to the role of naming rights sponsor. About 50 staff are competing in the event, too.
With the new bike course, fast times are expected from the Tauranga Half elite fields.
The 2021 field is the strongest in more than a decade and includes defending champion and race record holder Kyle Smith, 2019 winner Mike Phillips, former race record holder Braden Currie, 10-time champion Cameron Brown and former world champion Terenzo Bozzone.
The women's field for the Tauranga Half features defending champion Hannah Wells seeking a three-peat of wins, 2020 runner-up Rebecca Clark, Melanie Burke and Emily McNaughton.
For athletes wanting to challenge themselves with an athletic endeavour in the new year, entries can still be made for the Fulton Hogan Mount Festival of Multisport at www.mountfestival.kiwi