Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival starts January 15

Challenge Wanaka features one of the world's toughest iron distance triathlon courses, set against the stunning alpine backdrop of New Zealand's Southern Alps.

It is New Zealand's largest triathlon festival,featuring events for all ages and abilities in one of the most spectacular settings possible, the shores of Lake Wanaka. The week-long triathlon fest willtake place from January 15-21, 2012.

Part of the legendary Challenge Family global series,renowned the world over for its memorable events, Challenge Wanaka is the race of a lifetime and the perfect opportunity to compete and holiday in paradise.

Join over 1500 top professional and age group athletes fromall over the globe on the world's most scenic iron distance course for the3.8km swim in crystal-clear waters, the 180km bike taking in three alpine lakes and the 42.2km run, which is 75% off-road along the water's edge.

The festival kicks off on Sunday January 15 with the Puzzling World Junior Challenge for budding triathletes aged from four to 15. There's also the Radio Wanaka 5km Fun Run and Swim the Course in the week before the two highlight events.

The streets of downtown Wanaka turn into a high-speed race circuit on Friday, January 20 when New Zealand's top triathletes, including Olympians and national champions, compete in the Contact Tri Series. This thrilling criterium-style bike racing is a huge hit with spectators and provides exciting race conditions for the athletes as they compete inthis, the first of four national sprint races to decide the national championship.

The week culminates with the flagship Challenge Wanaka raceon Saturday January 21, run simultaneously with the Lake Wanaka Half. Thousands of spectators line the route and finish chute cheering on these inspirational contenders as they compete in the most arduous of the triathlon disciplines. The finish line is in the heart of Wanaka township and in true "Challenge"style, there's a fun finish-line party with music and fireworks to welcome the athleteshome late into the night.

Challenge Wanaka is part of the Challenge Family series featuring 13 races across three continents, including the world's largest iron distance triathlon, Challenge Roth in Germany.

Other races are Challenge Fuerteventura and Challenge Barcelona (Spain), Challenge Kraichgau (Germany), Challenge Cairns (Australia), Challenge Copenhagen and Challenge Aarhus (Denmark), Challenge Vichy (France), Challenge Walchsee (Austria), ChallengeHenley-on-Thames (UK) and Challenge Cape Town (South Africa).

For further information visit www.challenge-wanaka.com