Tauranga's traditional triathlon season-opener has been given a major shot in the arm, with a top field expected for Sunday's event.
The Craigs Investment Partners Tinman, first run in 1989, has been bolstered by a $1000 first prize in both men's and women's divisions and the athletes have responded.
Previous winners James and Mark Bowstead and current Port of Tauranga half ironman champion Michael Poole have been joined by crowd favourite Kieran Doe, Graham O'Grady, Scott Thorne and Jamie Whyte in the men's ranks.
Auckland's Callum Millward will also back up a week after taking out Sunday's Contact series opener in Rotorua.
Defending women's champion Maddy Brunton (Hamilton) is also coming after winning in Rotorua, along with her fierce rival Megan Blackett, Michelle Bremer and Tauranga's Janine Simpson.
Most are using the Olympic distance course - 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run - to build up for January's Port of Tauranga Half Ironman but the Tinman's increase in prize money has had the desired effect.
"The field is by far the strongest it has been in years and we're in for a very exciting race," 2008 winner James Bowstead said.
"The increased prize money is great for the sport - some of the guys are trying to do this sport professionally and every dollar helps but it also attracts a stronger field which makes the race more exciting for everyone."
Millward comes in as the form horse, having beaten the younger Bowstead brother to the line on Sunday, and with a change in focus this season.
"The last four years I've done Olympic distance and World Cup races but I decided halfway through the year to head towards non-drafting," Millward said. "I know the Tinman's going to be a damn hard race - there's money up for grabs and quality non-drafting athletes. I think it will be awesome to be a part of it."
Mark Bowstead won last year in 1:54:02 but he believes he'll need to vastly improve on that time to be competitive.
"It should come down to the wire like it did yesterday in Rotorua but I reckon this year it will take a time of at least 5mins quicker than last year to take the title, as long as the weather holds," he said.
Event director Janette Blyth said with online entries closing tonight, numbers were already 10 per cent up, with 600 expected on the start line.