Whether it is the international stars that have come to chase World Cup glory or the local athletes chasing their own headlines in New Zealands highest profile ITU triathlon, the stories are aplenty this weekend at the Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU Triathlon World Cup.

From the moment the New Plymouth race was secured on the calendar, the big names started to confirm, with Rio bronze medalist Henri Schoeman leading a South African charge in the mens race that also features countryman Richard Murray (4th in Rio and winner of the recent Super League race in Hamilton Island) and Wian Sullwald (bronze medal winner at the 2017 Cape Town World Cup).

The South Africans wont have it all their own way though, with sixth ranked Joao Silva (Portugal) and Mexicos Crisanto Grajales (world #7) rounding out an impressive list of world top ten athletes to be joined by a large Kiwi contingent, let by Ryan Sissons (Auckland) as he looks to go one better than his fourth-place last year.

The womens race is even more impressive, with a stunning seven of the top eleven ranked athletes set to go toe to toe over the sprint distance. Along with New Zealands Andrea Hewitt (runner up here last year) and five other Kiwis, 2017 sees a return for former winner Katie Zaferes (world #4) multiple World Cup and World Series winner Sarah True (world #6), Japanese star Ai Ueda (world #5), Dutch star Rachel Klamer (world #7) current World number 10 Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Summer Cook (USA, world #11).

Murray is a two-time winner in New Plymouth and loves returning to not only race, but to immerse himself in the local community with school visits always a hit with the students, and the athletes.

"I very much enjoy it here, I love to come back. The place in itself is part of the reason, the people, the environment it is all conducive to some good racing and some good fun, I look forward to coming back and hope it continues for the next few years."

Murray is keen to win for a third time in succession after enjoying a strong start to the season, with a win in the recent Super League triathlon that saw athletes compete over three days on Hamilton Island.

"My fitness is great, I am not sure where I got it from - I hate mentioning how little training I have been doing, but it is literally three weeks in Namibia and then four races since then and one or two odd weeks in between. But this year I am taking a different approach with a bit more fun, fill some training in here and there and see where the cards fall.

"The body is in good shape after the Super League racing, my ankle flared up a little with an Achilles injury that I havent had before. I didnt run for six days after Hamilton Island and have done a couple of runs for this week so hopefully it comes right for this weekend."

Rachel Klamer (Netherlands) is another regular visitor to New Zealand shores with the Dutch team at one point coached by New Zealander John Hellemans. When asked about her prospects she did at first giggle and reference an embarrassing moment at a previous event here.

"First of all I hope not to leave my helmet on at the start of the run! But seriously, I have started the season pretty well and hope to have a good race - preferably in some sun which would be nice.

"The race is going to be so strong, you can compare it to the last World Tri Series race. I was asking around saying who is going to New Plymouth and I soon changed that to who is not going to New Plymouth because it seemed everyone was coming here.

"I have done a Continental Cup here before, we love it here and love racing and training here. I kind of compare this to my home race at Holten, the whole city knows tri, everyone loves it and is a part of the week, it is cool."

Races is on Sunday, with the women racing over the 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run at 11am and the men racing on the same course from 1pm. Races are expected to take just under the hour mark, with wonderful spectator areas including the grandstand at the finish line and transition area at Ngamotu Beach.

The event dubbed Sprint by the Mountain is made possible with the ongoing support of Quality Hotel Plymouth International, Venture Taranaki, Port Taranaki and TSB Community Trust.

New Zealanders on the start list for the Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU World Cup are:

Men: Tayler Reid (Gisborne), Hayden Wilde (Whakatane), Kyle Smith (Taupo), Daniel Hoy (Auckland), Ryan Sissons (Auckland), Liam Ward (Auckland)

Women: Deb Lynch (Porirua), Nicole van der Kaay (Taupo), Elise Salt (Auckland), Sophie Corbidge (Auckland), Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Elizabeth Stannard (Palmerston North).

Event website: www.itunewplymouthtriathlon.co.nz

Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU Triathlon World Cup

Sunday, April 2nd 2017

Ngamotu Beach

Elite Women 11:00am

Elite Men 1:00pm

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Triathlon New Zealand