New Zealand's time trial world champion Linda Villumsen has pulled out of this week's national road cycling championships in Napier.
Villumsen suffered an ankle injury in training, forcing her out of the three-day championships which begin with the women's time trial tomorrow.
The accomplished 30-year-old would have also started favourite for Saturday's 117km women's road race but her absence opens up the prospects for the likes of 2010 and 2014 champion Rushlee Buchanan, 2013 winner Courtney Lowe and double Olympian Joanne Kiesanowski.
Much interest will centre on how a strong men's field adjust to the new 180km course on Sunday.
It features several laps of a 13km inner city loop that includes a climb of the steep Bluff Hill.
Five New Zealand World Tour riders are competing - George Bennett, Jesse Sergent, Patrick Bevin, Sam Bewley and 39-year-old three-time Olympian Greg Henderson.
Double Olympic medallist Bewley believes the outcome is hard to predict.
"The climbers will have a chance for sure but Greg Henderson is one of the fastest guys going around and he won't struggle too much on these climbs," he said.
"Hopefully it is a hard race - the harder the better for me. If it is a hard race then those pure sprinters will feel the fatigue more."