The XTERRA World Championship qualifying series schedule heads to the South Island of New Zealand for the XTERRA Motatapu off-road triathlon this Saturday, March 4.

The iconic race is entering its sixth year as part of the world tour and is by far the longest, combining a 2km swim in Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka, 47km Mountain Bike, and 15km mountain run over the historic Miners Trail course.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

The amateur winner from each age group will qualify for Maui, while the top three elite men and women chase $3,500 NZD.

“As the defending champion, it’s nice to be coming back to the race where I won my first XTERRA,” said the reigning men’s champion Olly Shaw, who finished more than eight minutes ahead of Kieran McPherson with a winning time of 3:51:39 last year.

“This is my fifth-year racing XTERRA Motatapu so I know what to expect and am preparing for a long hard day out there. It’s a brutal course starting with the cold swim in Lake Wanaka, a steady mountain bike, and then finishes with what I would describe as the hardest run on the XTERRA World Tour.”

In addition to dealing with the elements Shaw will also have to take on the 2015 champ Dougal Allen, who is fresh off a win at Challenge Wanaka last weekend.

“Dougal and I had a good battle here two years ago, and I’m hoping for something similar this weekend, but to reverse that result,” said Shaw.  “I’m feeling good going in. As always, my main focus for the early part of the year is XTERRA New Zealand in Rotorua on April 8, so this race works as a stepping stone towards that. I’ve had a good block of training since the start of the year so I’m looking forward to seeing what my shape is like on race day and fighting to defend my title.”

Other men in the elite field include Cedric Wane, who was third last year, George Gwynn, Matt Randall, and Pete Smallfield.

Last year’s women’s champ, Mary Gray, is also back to defend her title.  Julia Grant, a long-distance specialist with several podiums throughout her career, is pegged as her toughest challenger.

More than just the XTERRA race, Motatapu hosts a full-blown endurance sports festival weekend with more than 3,000 competitors racing in a series of events that include a marathon, an ultra, and a huge mountain bike race.

Learn more at motatapu.com.