WHEN the elite triathletes toe the start line of the Olympic distance event at the BCU Coffs Tri, there'll be no shortage of contenders to take home the lion's share of the prizemoney.
While hopes of a local victory rest with Richard Pearson, Daniel Stein and Reece Edwards, there's a strong group of out-of-towners who will be very hard to beat.
That group is led by recent South West Rocks triathlon winner Scott Llewellyn, Pater Mauro, Joshua Pearl, Port Macquarie's Cameron Pensini as well as professional triathletes Mitch Dean and Ben Hammond.
Hammond is no stranger to racing in Coffs Harbour.
Aside from spending many childhood holidays here, the 24 year-old recalls racing here a decade ago when a round of the Accenture triathlon series was held at the Jetty Foreshore.
Hammond admits his memory of that time is "being 15 years old and finishing dead last."
This time around the result is expected to be different.
Now older and stronger, Hammond is one of the best triathletes in NSW.
Hammond isn't sure he's the pre-race favourite though.
"This will be my first race of the season," Hammond said. "I took my end-of-season break a little later than usual so I've just been trying to get some 'ks' in my legs before I do my first ironman in May."
The Manly triathlete suggests a pair of other contenders will be the ones to watch.
"Mitch (Dean) and Scott (Llewellyn) are both great athletes and they're going to be hard to beat," Hammond said.
"It will certainly make for a bit of a fun race."
Hammond will have a keen interest to see how the women's race pans out as well.
His girlfriend of three years, Brooke Langereis, is one of the favourites to win that event.
Langereis will have to chase down former elite swimmer Anna Cleaver who has flown over from New Zealand for the event.
Local hopes in the women's event will rest with Aimee Sutton.