Following a training camp on Tenerife, Ivan Basso and his Liquigas-Cannondale team-mates go into this weekend's Trofeo Laigueglia full of anticipation for what promises to be a successful season debut.
This Saturday's 184km event in Laigueglia is the beginning of Basso's path to the Tour de France, a race he hopes to win following his triumphant return to the winner's podium at last year's Giro d'Italia.
"The warmth of the Italian public always gives you a real thrill," said the popular Varesine, "With the spring races coming up, the Trofeo Laigueglia will be an important step for me. I'm fresh from two weeks' training in the mountains so I'll need time to adjust before I can get the most from all our work.
"I'm itching to race and get back to competing; now that the foundations of my preparations are laid, I can concentrate on specific workouts to increase my strength and improve my pedal stroke. So you could say that the 'Laigueglia' comes at just the right time for me. "
Recently Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, Valerio Agnoli, Eros Capecchi, Damiano Caruso, Jacopo Guarnieri, Maciej Paterski, Simone Ponzi and Sylwester Szmyd took part in a two-week high altitude training camp on Tenerife (pictured right).
As part of the training regime they completed six repetitions of 1.5km climb that rose more than 150 vertical metres and blood collected at the top to test anaerobic threshold, power at the threshold and power/body weight ratio.
Liquigas-Cannondale directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta believes the work put in by his riders should serve them well this weekend and into the season.
"They've put in a lot of hard work, and shown immense commitment and dedication; the indications from our latest tests are encouraging," said Zanatta. "The team has a great deal of trust in these young riders. Now they're preparing a programme that will make them competitive in the spring races: the Trofeo Laigueglia will be a terrific opportunity for them."
While most eyes will be on Basso, Zanatta is excited by the prospect of Peter Sagan's presence in Laigueglia; the Czech rider had a terrific neo-pro year in 2010 and there's the expectation he can continue the strong style he demonstrated throughout last season.
"The presence of Peter Sagan is also proof of Liquigas-Cannondale's desire to be competitive," said Zanatta. "He was one of the best riders in the first race in Donoratico and showed an excellent pedal stroke. The race finale is suited to finisseurs so it's the ideal terrain for him, " added Zanatta.
Liquigas-Cannondale for Trofeo Laigueglia: Ivan Basso, Damiano Caruso, Mauro Finetto, Maciej Paterski, Simone Ponzi, Peter Sagan, Cristiano Salerno and Cameron Wurf.