Ironman: Classic showdown looms at Port of Tauranga half

Triathlon royalty and a host of pretenders will be eyeing up one another on the start line at the Port of Tauranga half ironman tomorrow.

In the men's field it is generation vs generation with 10-time New Zealand Ironman champion Cameron Brown lining up against a bevy of challengers, including former world half champion Terenzo Bozzone.

Brown is looking to take his Port of Tauranga tally into double figures, having first raced at Mount Maunganui in 1998 in an event that serves as a perfect build up to his New Zealand Ironman campaign in March.

"I have enjoyed my build-up and took the chance to relax in Whangamata yesterday, racing alongside my son Josh in a short event to turn the legs over while Braeden was also racing in a team," Brown said. "It was a nice relaxed way to finish preparation before driving down."

Bozzone has not been on the start line at Pilot Bay for some time but is eyeing up a big 2013, starting tomorrow.

"It has been eight years since I last competed here and I am excited to be standing on the start line tomorrow morning. Tauranga is a holiday destination so the crowds for this race are always spectacular."

In the women's field all eyes are on Jo Lawn as the time New Zealand Ironman champion takes on great rival Gina Crawford. Like Brown, Lawn is a multiple winner in the Tauranga half, with four victories to her name.

"The atmosphere here at the Mount is incredible," she said. "I feel the timing of the event in early January is fantastic. It feels like you're on holiday and doing a training day."

The four favourites won't have it their own way, however, with a host of others capable of contending on the day, including three-time season winner Graham O'Grady (Kinloch), Luke McKenzie (Australia) and half distance expert Callum Millward (Havelock North).

In the women's field a long list of dark horse candidates includes Amanda Balding (Australia), Candice Hammond (Cambridge), Monica Dalidowicz (Canada) and Julia Grant (Ashburton).