Britain's Vicky Holland and Mario Mola of Spain start their title defences in Abu Dhabi tomorrow as the 2019 World Triathlon Series (WTS) gets underway.
Holland will be battling for a place at the top of the podium with US opponent Katie Zaferes, who she narrowly beat to the title in finishing second at the ITU World Championships Grand Final in Gold Coast last September.
American and British athletes dominated the top ten in 2018, and Holland will be competing at the Yas Island circuit alongside compatriots Georgia Taylor-Brown, Non Stanford and Jessica Learmonth.
Zaferes will be joined on the start line by fellow US athletes Taylor Spivey and Summer Rappaport, both of whom scored World Cup victories towards the end of last year.
Australia's Ashleigh Gentle, who sprinted away from Holland to win the Grand Final, already has Abu Dhabi silver to her name from 2016 back when the course was a standard-distance affair.
Indeed, it was only 12 months ago that the sprint circuit was first unveiled in the UAE city, in a race that saw Rachel Klamer of The Netherlands take control of the testing conditions and earn a gutsy first WTS gold.
Elsewhere on the starting list, Yuko Takahashi will be among the Japanese medal contenders eager to deliver a strong series ahead of a tough qualification path to their home Olympic Games next year in Tokyo.
Compatriot Ai Ueda looked in fine form as she won gold at the first World Cup of 2019 in Cape Town.
Tomorrow's men's race will include all ten of the top-ranked athletes from 2018.
The race raises the curtain on the new season for the fifth consecutive year, with South Africa's Henri Schoeman defending his title against a field that includes top challengers such as Vincent Luis of France and Australia's Jacob Birtwhistle.
Mola will seek a strong start to his world title defence here, although he has not won in the Middle East since 2016, when the Yas Island course was standard-distance.
The sprint distance established in 2017 could better suit his closest rival from last year Luis, who has won bronze at the last two events in Abu Dhabi.
Schoeman's fellow South African Richard Murray makes his first start of the year after injury forced him out of the Cape Town race last month.
Both the men's and women's races will take place tomorrow, with the mixed relay event scheduled for Saturday (March 9).