The story of the Doha World Championships so far has been one of heat, the course and some standout performances.
The heat was always going to be a talking point after the UCI decision to hold the World Championships in Qatar which, even in the autumn has seen the mercury soar to consistently around the 35-38 degree Celsius mark. Some riders have suffered visibly from heat stroke, collapsing by the roadside whilst others have dealt with it better and it will continue to be a key part in the women's road race.
The course has been well-practised by this stage and the 15.2 kilometre loop of the man-made island called 'The Pearl' will hold no surprises for the riders. Pan-flat and quite technical, the course has produced a number of bunch sprints so far, but also rewarded the attacking riders in a thrilling junior men's race.
The race will be a far cry from a traditional Tour of Qatar stage, with the race set entirely within the built-up areas and whilst parts of the course are exposed to the wind, it is only for short sections. There is the possibility for splits if the bunch is lined out through the technical sections, but it will be a lot harder than normal to cause splits.
It's the riders that make the race, rather than the course and it looks like the race will be decided by what the major teams decide to do. The race looks to be in the hands of the Australian, Italian and perhaps most of all the Dutch team. It's hard to overstate just how top loaded with talent the Dutch are, any of their nine riders could potentially win the race.
Perhaps their best for this course will be Kirstin Wild. The hulking sprinter has been regarded for a long time as one of the quickest in the world when it comes to a flat finish. The Dutch have other sprinters in Chantal Blaak and the all-round phenomenon Marianne Vos, as well as plenty of riders capable of winning from breaks, so they might not be content to leave it to the chance of a hectic sprint and instead go on the attack.
The reason they may be scared of a bunch sprint is Chloe Hosking. The Australian sprinter has been enjoying career best form this season, starting off well in Australian racing and the Tour of Qatar before having a quiet spring. Ever since then, she has been in top form and has taken out really big wins on the Champs Elysees at La Course, the Giro Rosa and numerous other sprint finishes.
At her best, she has the power to beat anyone if they come to the sprint on roughly equal terms and this Australian team has the firepower on the flat to put her in that position. The real question for the Australians will be how they play it if the race starts to break up with attacks from other teams. Will they send riders like Lauren Kitchin or Tiffany Cromwell in dangerous moves or conserve their numbers and trust in riding the front?
Hosking has been preparing for this all year and with a strong team behind her, it looks like Australia's best chance of taking the rainbow stripes at this year's world championships.
Italy were the other team that will have a lot to say about how the race plays out. They have a number of potential sprinters but former world champions Marta Bastianelli and Giorgia Bronzini look the most likely to fight it out in a bunch kick. Again, their options are open and with riders like Elisa Longo Borghini and Elena Cecchini very good in late attacks, there are plenty of options for the Italians.
Jolien D'Hoore (Belgium), Leah Kirchmann (Canada), Lotta Lepisto (Finland), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Ting Ying Huang (Taiwan) are other riders who have proven themselves this season in the sprints. Whilst it would be a surprise if a rider like Fahlin or Huang won the worlds, they are all very accomplished sprinters, just without the support that many of the other top names will enjoy.
Poland, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and USA are probably hoping that the race gets split to pieces. They all have riders who can do a job in a sprint finish, so whilst their best chance of a win is if they manage to make a dangerous break they may instead choose to ride conservatively and take their chances in a chaotic sprint.
Case in point is defending world champion Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead, riding for Great Britain), who won't win a straight sprint against the best but is very dangerous from attacks. Do they pursue a strategy of trying to constantly attack and break up the race, or sit in and let one of the Barnes sisters (Hannah and Alice) go for a sprint?
From a neutrals perspective hopefully it ends up like the junior men's race, with riders all over the road and team tactics constantly in flux.
With multiple options still up in the air, the race has the potential to be an enthralling one, make sure you're glued to your sets and (from a partisan perspective) cheering Chloe Hosking on!
SBS will be broadcasting the race live on SBS 2 from 10.00 pm AEDT with live streaming on the Cycling Central website from 8.30 pm.