While the men had their 'season opener' in January's Tour Down Under, the women's road season will kick into high gear later this month in the land down under with the Geelong Tour, the opening round of the UCI Women's Road World Cup, and the Women's Tour of New Zealand.
More than 100 riders from 16 nations, including Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champions, will contest the three day, four stage Geelong Tour (February 17 to March 1) - the first international stage race on the women's calendar for 2007, and the single day Geelong World Cup on March 3rd.
Defending champion Oenone Wood has joined the powerhouse T-Mobile squad, who will stack the deck with champions. 2004 World Champion, Judith Arndt, the 2006 Geelong World Cup winner, Ina Teutenberg, 2006 Australian Road Champion, Kate Bates and 2007 Australian Criterium Champion Alexis Rhodes are all part of the T-Mobile team.
Not to be underestimated, the new Raleigh Lifeforce Creation squad will bring the world number one and defending World Cup series champion Nicole Cooke and Switzerland's Priska Doppman. Cooke was the bronze medallist in the road race at the 2006 World Championships and the Welsh star is keen to find early season form and pick up points in her bid to add a third series win to her World Cup tally that also includes the 2003 title.
Other champions to appear in Geelong are two time World Champion Susanne Ljungskog, riding for Team Flexpoint, and Trixi Worrack, ranked fourth in the world, riding for Team Nürnberger. Athens Olympic Champion, Sara Carrigan, will return to international competition after taking a break from cycling. She'll lead the Queensland Academy of Sport team and will be joined by 2005 Australian Champion, Lorian Graham and newly crowned Australian time trial Champion, Carla Ryan.
Japan's Miho Oki has twice sprinted her way onto the podium in the Geelong World Cup, second in 2006 and third in 2004, and is hopeful of victory for either herself or one of her Menikini Gysko team mates who include Australia's Olivia Gollan and Rochelle Gilmore.
Sydney's Natalie Bates, the 2006 Commonwealth Games road race winner, will head the NSW Institute of Sport team.