The fourth edition of the Compressport Mount Festival of Multisport is all set for January 19-21 January, with a range of athletic and community events to pull in the crowds.
Built around the iconic Port of Tauranga Half, this year's festival includes a number of new events, including the Enduro and Hopt Soda Aqua Bike - an event for athletes of all abilities – and the Under Armour Mount Run.
Community events The Big Little Markets, Street Food Union and the Night Owl Cinema will also make an appearance as well as the Mt Maunganui Beach Volleyball Open on the Mount's Main Beach.
The 2018 Port of Tauranga Half is the headline event, with New Zealand's top long distance triathletes assembling for the men's and women's race on Saturday, January 20.
Ten-time race winner Cameron Brown is back and is looking to add an 11th title in an event he last won in 2014.
His main competition is expected to come from the country's rising star of long-distance triathlon, Mike Phillips, who recorded the world's fastest debut in an Ironman event when coming second at the Barcelona Ironman last September.
He backed up this performance with victory in the Taupo 70.3 event in December.
While this battle will provide plenty of intrigue, other contenders for the title are two-time champion Graham O'Grady, Australian Alexander Polizzi and NZ triathletes Simon Cochrane and Dylan McNeice.
The Port of Tauranga Half women's field has the defending champ, Amelia Watkinson, returning after an outstanding year on the Asian circuit. She started 2017 with her second consecutive title in the Port of Tauranga Half before going on to win seven events in Asia.
This year, Watkinson faces a strong challenge from leading Australian long-distance triathlete Melissa Hauschildt, who is in a rich vein of form after winning the Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in November, and the Sunsmart Ironman, Western Australia in December.
The women's field is rounded out by last year's third-place getter Teresa Adam, and strong performers Rebecca Clark and Pip Meo.
The Mount Festival of Multisport kicks off with the Port of Tauranga Half Expo, coupled by the Enduro and Hopt Soda Aquabike registration at the Mount Spots Club, followed by bike racking on Pilot Bay and the culinary delights of The Street Food Union from 4:30-8:30pm in Coronation Park.
The Saturday programme features the Enduro starting at 6am, Port of Tauranga Half starting at 7:30am, Hopt Soda Aquabike starting at 8.25am, and the Under Armour Mount Run and Mt Maunganui Beach Volleyball Open.
Saturday is rounded out on Mt Drury with the Port of Tauranga Half and Enduro prize-giving at 6pm, followed by the Night Owl Cinema screening of ‘The World's Fastest Indian' at 8:30pm.
The Mt Maunganui Beach Volleyball Open features New Zealand's top players, and Commonwealth Games contenders. Sam and Ben O'Dea, Mike Watson and Tom Hartles and Rene Kapa and Morgan Seymour are the top seeds in the men's division, while & Shaunna Polley and Kelsie Wills, Julia Tilley and Alice Bain are the top seeds in the women's field. The tournament takes place over the weekend with finals scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The Mount Festival of Multisport takes place from 19-21 January, with the festival village situated in Pilot Bay.
Festival Director Lauren Watson says: “The festival will be one event which the public can watch or participate in at one of New Zealand's most popular summer destinations.
“The Mount Festival of Multisport has something for everyone, from the elite fields in the Port of Tauranga Half, to the Under Armour Mount Run for people of all ages and athletic ability. For those who just want to soak in some sunshine and sport, there is Beach Volleyball on the main beach”
For more information, visit: www.mountfestival.kiwi