It's 4.30am and the hopes and dreams of 1100 athletes begin to waken with the town. Its eerily quiet and it looks like New Zealand's premier triathlon event will get underway as planned before the forecasted bad weather hits.
Strong northerlies and persistent rain are expected to develop throughout the day. However as this means the wind will be coming directly off the shore it should not affect the swim leg too much. Athletes will have a strengthening headwind on the way out on each lap of the bike, and a tailwind on return. For some this could work in their favour.
Another storm is likely to be upfront as the two top seeds and perennial defending champions have their work cut out for them. In recent years it has become apparent that it is foolish to bet against Jo Lawn and Cameron Brown. But this year I am going to stick my neck out, particularly in Lawn's case.
Gina Ferguson has come on in leaps and bounds with two wins over the distance in her first year. She demolished the small field and the record in Challenge Wanaka. What made this really impressive however was that this was only a few weeks after racing to second and beating the old record in Ironman Western Australia, she didn't taper for the race, she was camping in the local campground, it was 35 deg C for most of the day, and then she confides that she was backing off to save herself.
Clearly Lawn is the better athlete on a fast flat course, but should the conditions turn sour, I'd be putting my money on Ferguson to lead out the water, almost hold off on the bike, and storm through on the run.
The men's race is less clear cut. Brown must still be everyone's favourite, but second seed Luke Bell is likely to follow Kieran Doe off the bike. One of them could hold Brown off till very late in the day when anything can happen. Doe is spectacular if unpredictable, and if he comes off he will be hard to beat.
And then there is Richard Ussher, winner of the Coast to coast. Clearly this will not be his year as he finds his feet in the deep water. A solid top five finish from him would not surprise me.