|Armitstead is the only British rider at this
year's Tour of Qatar
If the gold General Classification jersey seems out of reach, Armitstead could instead aim for the silver Points competition jersey - a stage win combined with good performances in the intermediate sprints would put her in with a good chance at this. However, with no climbs anywhere in the race, all the teams will be sending the best sprinters they have and she'll face stiff competition for each and every point.
The race covers 388km split into four stages, some of them familiar from previous editions of the Tour.
Stage 1, extending for 97km, is a carbon copy of 2013's Stage 1 which was won by Australian Chloe Hosking of Hitec Products-UCK. Hosking has been one of the finest sprinters in the world for a few years now and has continued to improve; racing for Hitec again this year, she'll be one of Armitstead's strongest rivals for stage victory and the overall General Classification.
The riders will cross the finish line twice, first after 35.5km from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and then again at the end of the race 61.5km later. When they do so for the first time they'll enter the first of two intermediate sprints; the second intermediate sprint on the desert road heading east to Al Wakra.
At Al Ruwais, they'll turn and ride almost all the way across the country to Athba; since they'll now be heading away from the east coast, a strong tail wind could make this a very fast section of the stage and once again prevent breakaways. After a short stretch north to Al Gariyah, they turn west and begin riding back to Al Ruwais, this time battling a headwind. Having crossed the finish line for the first time they'll begin four laps around Madinat Al Shamal with intermediate sprints the second and fourth times they cross the line before finishing on the fifth after 112.3km.
Stage 2 in 2012 started and ended at the same points, but followed a different parcours that led east across the desert rather than north along the coast, making it an entirely different sort of race. Trixi Worrack won that day; she's back leading the Specialized-Lululemon team this year, but with the changes to the route it's impossible to say whether she has more chance at winning than her rivals this year - and since victory is likely to go to a rider able to generate a sprint-winning high wattage after fighting the wind for so much of the way, Armitstead seems to have odds as good as anyone else.
Once again, there are two intermediate sprints. The first is at Tenbek, 45km into the race and roughly two thirds of the way to Al Khor Corniche, while the second is 44.5km later at Al Thakira, 8.5km from the finish.
Stage 4 will also feel familiar to riders who competed last year, because it's the same as the final stage from 2013 - though it's listed as being 85km instead of 86.5km this time around, for some reason. Then, unusually for Qatar, the wind dropped and completely changed the character if the race, encouraging fierce breakaways and attacks as Hitec fought to get Hosking into a position to take on race leader and eventual victor Kirsten Wild who is back with her Giant-Shimano team this year - and who will be a very powerful opponent to Armitstead and anyone else hoping to win.
The official race website is here and daily results will be published by the UCI. Team rosters: Ale Cipollini / Australia National Team / Astana-BePink / Boels-Dolmans / China Chong Ming / France National Team / Hitec Products / Italy National Team / Lotto-Belisol / Orica-AIS / Rabo-Liv/Giant / RusVelo / Specialized-Lululemon / Giant-Shimano / Wiggle-Honda.