For many triathletes this weekend's Tauranga Half, part of the Mount Festival of Multisport, marks the start of a busy year. Among those on the start line will be a couple of Bay of Plenty athletes aiming for top step on the podium.
• Premium - Ironman: Hannah Wells wins 70.3 Western Sydney, eyes 70.3 Taupō win
• Premium - Unstoppable Hannah Wells wins again at Ironman 70.3 Taupō
• Running: Next big goal for Tauranga's Hannah Wells
• Tauranga pro athlete Hannah Wells qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Championship
A win in the 2019 Tauranga Half marked the start of what would become a breakout year for Tauranga triathlete Hannah Wells, who went on to win every event she entered, including three Ironman 70.3 events in Taupō, West Sydney and Sunshine Coast, Challenge Wanaka and the Auckland Marathon.
This weekend she will be back on the start line in her home town, looking to defend the title which started that incredible run.
"I am going full time this year for the first time, so am excited to see what that brings, I hope to start the year with a few good results in the half distances around Oceania, before maybe moving to the full distance for the first time, which I am really excited about."
When asked the secret to her 2019 success, Wells said: "There's no secret, just consistent training, no injuries, good planning - thanks coach - and doing all the extra things right such as nutrition, prehab and rehab, strength training and looking after general wellbeing."
"I am in a build phase at the moment and things have been going well. I am feeling fit and ready to race."
She said she loved starting her year with the Tauranga Half.
"It's a home race for me so I love racing here. It is a beautiful place to race and there's plenty of support out on course, especially being a multi-lap bike and run course, and I love that. The Tauranga Half has been around for over 30 years now and is one of the iconic triathlon races in NZ, so it's great to be part of that."
"I haven't seen a start list yet, but I know Lisa Roberts and Rebecca Clarke are racing. They will both be tough competition."
Battle lines drawn: International star takes on Tauranga Half
A Taupō win will mean 100 per cent success rate for Wells
Lisa Roberts from Tucson, US has been a multisport professional for 11 years, competing in more than 70 full or half-distance triathlons in this time. She is a six-time iron distance champion and multiple record holder, making regular appearances on podiums around the world.
Rebecca Clarke was third in last year's Tauranga Half and comes into Saturday's event in good form after a third in the Western Sydney 70.3, and fourth in the Taupō 70.3 in December.
Meanwhile, in the men's race, another Bay of Plenty local is looking to make his mark. Taupō's Kyle Smith comes into the race in good form, having shrugged off an underdog status to win the Taupō 70.3 Ironman last year.
"I'm excited for it, training has been going good since Taupō, I kept it going throughout Christmas and New Year's and I can't wait to get out there.
"I kind of flew under the radar for Taupō which I really liked. I came in and nobody was expecting me to win which was kind of nice, not having that expectation. I guess people are paying a little bit more attention now but I still don't feel that pressure to perform any more than I did in Taupō.
"If I go out and there and have a good day then it's my day but I'm not going to put that pressure on my shoulders to try and win."
Smith has been involved in multisport racing for about 10 years and Ironman 70.3 Taupō was his debut at that distance. This will also be his first Tauranga Half.
"There's going to be a lot of wind and it's a really flat course, you kind of just have to put your head down and go. The technical running around the Mount will sting, especially doing it twice.
"The biggest challenge will lie within my own decision making and my own skills and tactics around nutrition and pacing. I seemed to get it all right in Taupō and we'll just try and roll out that carpet again."
The 2020 Tauranga Half takes place on Saturday, 11 January at Pilot Bay, Mt Maunganui. It is the headline event for the Mount Festival of Multisport.