The third annual Ladies Tour of Qatar will get underway this coming Wednesday, promising intense racing once again. The gulf country's crosswinds and flat, deserted countryside is tailor-made for the best sprinters to battle it out for the victory in the three-day event.
Headlining the race will be World Champion and multiple Qatar stage winner Georgia Bronzini, as well as Olympic Champion Nicole Cooke. Many more top level athletes from 15 teams - six national and nine professional - will make up the bunch covering a total distance of 291.5 kilometres.
In the absence of two-time overall winner Kirsten Wild, whose AA Drink-Leontien.nl team does not participate, the obvious favourite will be Bronzini, captaining the Italian national team. But Cooke, although not a pure sprinter, is certain to get involved in the action together with her MCipollini-Giordana team that also features 2009 World junior champion Rossella Callovi and current Italian champion Monia Baccaille.
Other well-known names include Charlotte Becker from HTC-Highroad, Elizabeth Armitstead and Alexis Rhodes from Garmin-Cervélo, Rochelle Gilmore from Lotto-Honda and Roxanne Knetemann and Suzanne de Goede of Skil-Koga.
The 2011 programme boasts the Museum of Islamic Art, the Camel Race Track and the usual finish on the Doha Corniche waterfront.