The RaboPlus national elite road cycling championships will get off to high profile start in Christchurch on Friday.
The time trial, which so often plays second fiddle to the road race, has received a significant boost with entries from world championship bronze medallist Linda Villumsen and world track champion Alison Shanks.
The individual time trial from Lincoln University, with women over 25km and men over 40km, leads into the elite women's road race on Saturday and the men on Sunday on a loop course on the Cashmere Hills.
Cambridge rider Melissa Holt will defend her title in the women's time trial but will be under some threat from Shanks and particularly Villumsen, who will make her debut as a New Zealander, having officially switched allegiances last week.
Shanks has been preparing for her upcoming track season with her goals including the defence of her world individual pursuit title in Copenhagen in March and the Commonwealth Games in October.
She has eyed the time trial before, toying with entry to the world championships last year before opting to concentrate on the track.
Villumsen, 24, is the Danish national champion and took out the bronze medal in this discipline at the world road championships in Switzerland late last year.
The Danish-born, New Zealand citizen rides for the Columbia HTC team and is based in Italy during the northern hemisphere summer.
"I am still not in the form to ride fast in this event but I am looking forward to competing in the New Zealand Championships as a New Zealand citizen. That makes me very proud," Villumsen said.
"I am still building with long mileage and gym work right now for our road season but I will do my best this weekend."
Other hopefuls in the women's time trial include Rushlee Buchanan (Te Awamutu), Gemma Dudley (Levin), Rachel Mercer (Wellington) and Sonia Waddell (Cambridge).
US-based professional Jeremy Vennell will defend his title in the men's time trial over 40kms. The Hawkes Bay rider, who competes for Team Bissell in the US, was second in the Tour of Wellington last year and had five other podium finishes.
He will be challenged by the 2008 national champion Logan Hutchings (Papamoa) as well as Beijing Olympic team pursuit medallist Marc Ryan (Timaru) and the ebullient current national road champion Gordon McCauley (Auckland).
Ryan's pursuit team-mates Jesse Sergent (Feilding) and Wes Gough (Waipukurau) are favoured for honours in the under-23 battle.
The time trial starts at 10am with an out and back course from Lincoln University.