Kinloch will this weekend feature a host of New Zealand's best triathletes as well as a contingent of international stars as the Sovereign Tri Series comes to town, featuring the ITU Elite Oceania Sprint Championships and New Zealand National Championships for all age groups over the sprint distance.

One of the more interesting aspects of this year's race features up and coming Sam Ward (Auckland) as he continues to gain experience at the top level in international racing. Ward has developed with personal coach Brett Reid and come through the Tri NZ HP Pathway, the 20-year-old looking for a strong season as he transitions from the junior ranks into elite racing.

Established ITU athlete Ryan Sissons has been training strongly with the Tri NZ HP Team, working with new personal coach Chris Pilone as he ponders his own pathway to the Rio Olympic Games. He too is simply looking to get racing after a difficult few months following the loss of Laurent Vidal, who had just begun coaching the Aucklander.

"I haven't raced since World Champs last year, Abu Dhabi will be my first big race this season and I want to race well there for selection purposes, Kinloch is a great chance to see how the training is going and to get into race mode.

"I like the course, Kinloch is a cool venue and there always seems to be some good racing, it is a place I enjoy racing at. The course suits me with the hilly strength based bike and then the fast run. I will be trying to have a good race and test a few things out and see how I am progressing for early March."

Sissons is pleased at the quality of the next generation of athletes emerging in the New Zealand programme but warns that races in New Zealand can be far removed from the hurly burly of ITU World Series action.

"Training well is one thing, racing is another, you have to be able to race well. Kinloch will be a nice season opener and we have some international presence which is great, it will be a strong field near the front for sure. But it is one thing to race well in Kinloch, you then have to take that and test yourselves on the world stage in bigger races. A lot can change when you have greater depth in the field."

Sissons is in good shape himself and looking forward to working with Pilone and the Tri NZ HP team as he pursues his goals of qualifying and racing well in Rio.

"I am fairly lucky, touch wood! I have got back into training after a decent break. The major issues for me have been around coaching, with Laurent passing away and now working with Chris - this is the best outcome for me from a tragic situation. Chris coached me for just over two years before London before he decided to take a break, I know him really well and he knows me and while some things have changed he has been great, we are both just looking forward to building that relationship this year to get what I need in the ITU racing and then on to Rio."

The women's race is highlighted by an international battle between Simone Ackermann (Auckland), Maaike Caelers (Netherlands) and Ai Ueda and Yuri Kato (Japan). Ackermann enjoyed one of her best seasons in 2015, posting a career-best 10th place finish at the Auckland World Series race, backed up by a number of top 25 performances and a season ending 26th place at the Chicago Grand Final and earning promotion to Tier 2 of the 2016 HP Squads.

Caelers is a proven performer with numerous medals at ITU World Cup and World Series events to her name while Ueda is her with the Japanese team as they train in the New Zealand summer to prepare for the start of the ITU season in Abu Dhabi in early March.

Triathlon New Zealand High Performance Director Graeme Maw says Kinloch is an exciting way to start the season here in New Zealand, with an international field to entertain fans and make for interesting racing.

"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.

"It's great to have seven countries represented across the fields. This is testament to the quality of training and standing of New Zealand in the triathlon world. Japan are also bringing over a very strong team, so it's great to see our special relationship with the JTU continuing."

In what is always a popular days racing, the Sovereign Kinloch race will also feature the hosting of the Erin Baker Standard Distance race, hosted by the Taupo Tri Sport club while hundreds of age group athletes will also chase national titles and places on the New Zealand team for the ITU World Champs in Cozumel (Mexico) later in the year.

Racing begins at 6:50am on Sunday morning with age group racing throughout the day, leading to the Elite races with women at 12:45 and men at 2:15 over sprint courses with great viewing areas at the Kinloch foreshore as athletes pass by multiple times on the bike and run legs.