The women's 2010 World Cup series begins on Sunday with the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio, near Varese, in northern Italy.
It is the first of nine races in this year's World Cup, with the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the Unive Ronde van Drenthe coming in quick succession on April 4 and 10 respectively. In May there will also be a race in China for the first time, followed later in the summer with races in Spain and Sweden. The World Cup ends with the GP de Plouay-Bretagne on August 21.
The organisers of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda are passionate about women's racing and this will be the 12th edition of the race. Recent winners include Marianne Vos in 2009, Emma Pooley in 2008, and Nicole Cooke in 2005 and 2007.
All three will be back this year and looking for victory in the hilly 129km race. Vos wears number one and leads the Netherlands team, while Cooke will be riding with a young but talented Great Britain team. She will be looking to leave her mark on the race after a troubled and disappointing 2009 season.
Fellow Briton Emma Pooley will be part of the powerful Cervelo TestTeam, along with the highly experienced Mirjam Melchers, Kirsten Wild, Regina Bruins, Sarah Duster and Sharon Laws.
Their big rivals HTC-Columbia also have a powerful team for the race that includes Judith Arndt and new signing Italy's Noemi Cantele. The Noris Cycling team includes Trixi Worrack, while Emma Johansson leads the Redsun Cycling Team and Susanne Ljungskog guides the MTN team.
The Italian team will be looking for victory on home turf and the azzurra team includes 2009 junior world champion Rossella Callovi and mountain biker Eva Lechner.
The USA will field a relatively inexperienced team but the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the other World Cup races in the next two weeks will be vital block of World Cup experience for the future.
"This race will be difficult for us because in the World Cups the level is very high and has many good riders," USA Cycling Women's National Program Director Manel Lacambra told Cyclingnews.
"It will be the first race for our new group of riders who will race 3 very technical world cups in just 15 days. To have competed before this races is very important for to have a good result. Our inexperience will be our problem but like always we will make our best."
A total of 26 teams and 150 riders will line-up for the race on Sunday morning.
The 129km race starts in Cittiglio and then heads to Luino overlooking Lake Maggiore, before the testing Brinzo climb. The smaller finishing circuits around Cittiglio includes the 3km long Orino climb and four laps makes the race a real classic and real test for the riders.
Before Sunday's race the organises have created a series of events to help promote women's cycling and make for a special weekend of cycling.
On Friday there is the first edition of the International Women's Cycling Congress. Guest speakers include Marc Chovelon, the UCI road co-ordinator, Dr Marina Gerin Birsa, who will speaks about women's cycling physiology, and Giovanni Esposito, who will speak about marketing and development of women's cycling.