Lake Taupo cycle challenge organisers insist the event is back on track after travelling a rocky road in the past 18 months.
Entry numbers are 1500 to 2500 below previous peak years for the 37th annual lake 160-kilometre circuit tomorrow.
The decrease is mainly in the number of relay riders, with many businesses not entering teams this year.
Race director Doug Simmons insists the event remains popular, however.
"It's been hard to single out any one reason for the lower numbers, but all events across the board are experiencing 10 to 15 per cent less entries. It might be a sign of the recession and what people are able to spend."
Last year's event was marred by extreme weather, staff sackings, and an independent audit that called for an overhaul of the administration. Mr Simmons did not believe issues such as the audit were a major factor for riders.
"The problems were localised within the region and few people living in the main centres were concerned."
Former trustee Keith Crate, who was critical of the administration, said the event had now got back on its feet. "It's all past history now and we are determined to move on.
It is still the biggest cycle ride in the country - almost twice as big in numbers as the next event."
Event spokesman Hayden Dickason said there was a strong international presence, with 325 overseas riders entered, including 282 from Australia and 12 from Britain.
Michael O'Hara, of Sydney, plans to couple the event with a family holiday in Taupo and Queenstown. "It seems a very well-set-up and organised ride, far better than I have experienced back home."
Taupo rider David Joyce will also be back for his 27th cycle challenge, but with more to prove after being knocked off his bike while training in May.
"I haven't been able to do a lot of training but all I want is to finish. Whether it takes me four hours or six hours, I just want to finish."
Multiple circuit enduro riders started on Wednesday, while the main event - one lap around the lake - will begin tomorrow morning.
- The Dominion Post
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