Hundreds of triathlon lovers will flock to Kinloch on Sunday for this year's Sovereign Tri Series event - with Rotorua's Sam Osborne back to defend his title.

The Kinloch event attracts some of the biggest elite names in the sport from New Zealand and around the world because it doubles as an OTU Oceania Continental Cup race. The sprint distance race is also the New Zealand Sprint Distance Triathlon Championships for all age groups (and elites) and it also includes the Elite Under-23 Sprint distance championships.

As well as being the National Sprint Distance Championships, the race also provides the opportunity for athletes aged 16-85+ to qualify for the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Champs in Mexico later this year.

Event director Stuart Dwight said it was an event that was hugely supported by the local community.

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"Each year we get a massive amount of support from Kinloch and Taupo locals who really get behind the day. There are plenty of active people in and around the area who love taking part in Tri Kinloch. The Standard Distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) is also known as the Erin Baker standard distance race. It's been raced since 1984 and back then it was known as the Taupo Triathlon, so that's a pretty special race."

Top Kiwi triathletes Ryan Sissons (Auckland), Sam Ward (Auckland) and Simone Ackermann (Auckland) will all be on the start line. They'll be joined by an array of other elites, including triathletes from Australia, Japan, Ireland, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands.

Triathlon New Zealand high performance manager Graeme Maw said Kinloch was one of the highlights in the elite domestic season.

"It's always a race where newcomers can cut their teeth against the best, and this year it's the perfect warm up for those challenging for Rio Olympics selection.

"Keep an eye out for Sissons, Yuichi Hosoda (Japan) and Australian Ryan Fisher in the men's race and Ai Ueda (Japan), Yurie Kato (Japan), Ackermann and Maaike Caelers (Netherlands) in the women's. But also look out for the new national junior champions - Liam Ward (Auckland) and Katherine Badham (Auckland) and don't forget Sam Osborne (Rotorua) who raced so well for the men's win last year.

Taupo's Steve Currie and Rotorua's Ray Lichtwark will be a duo to watch in the Erin Baker Standard Distance. Currie, 63, and Lichtwark, 70, will both be competing in their 33rd Kinloch triathlon, having done their first one back in 1984 when it was known as the Taupo triathlon.

Lichtwark said he can't get enough of the Kinloch event.

"Over the years it has become one of the most accurately marked out courses in New Zealand. It has always been a challenging course with lots of hills on the bike and a variety of run courses. Swimming in fresh water is harder than the sea, so it is very tough but enjoyable at the same time."

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