The 20th Port of Tauranga Half Ironman is shaping up as a classic battle between New Zealand's two leading female triathletes.
The ITU World Series champion Samantha Warriner steps up from Olympic racing to the Half Ironman at Mt Maunganui on January 10.
Warriner plans to mix the Olympic distance racing with more half ironman events including a push to qualify for the World Championship in 2009.
She's taking on the six-time Ironman New Zealand champion, Joanna Lawn, who will use the race as preparation for her defence of Ironman New Zealand title.
Lawn is chasing her seventh straight victory at Taupo in March.
The 2008 Port of Tauranga champion Kate Bevilaqua of Australia withdrew this week as she has not fully recovered from a broken shoulder blade suffered in a bike crash while training.