Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) have confirmed they will take on Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the Tour of the Alps, as all three use the mountainous stage race to prepare for the rapidly approaching Giro d'Italia that starts in Israel on May 4.
This year's Tour of the Alps starts in Arco on Monday, April 16 and ends in Innsbruck on Friday, April 20, covering much of the hilly circuit that will be used in this year's World Championships in late September.
The five stages include 13,100 metres of climbing and a mountain finish to Alpe di Pampeago on stage 2.
While Froome's racing has been overshadowed by his on-going salbutamol case, he is determined to race on as he tries to prove his innocence to the UCI anti-doping authorities. Team Sky have often used the Tour of the Alps to prepare for the Giro d'Italia, and Froome is expected to stay on in Italy after the race for some vital mountain stage reconnaissance.
Team Sky have won the Tour of the Alps and the Giro del Trentino – as it was previously known – in recent years thanks to Richie Porte, Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas. Froome is expected to challenge for victory after a recent spell of training but faces serious competition from eight other WorldTour teams and Giro d'Italia rivals such as Aru, Pinot, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Aru recovered and ready to race
Aru is keen to get his season on track after a disappointing spring. He was only 12th at Tirreno-Adriatico and then quit the Volta a Catalunya before the final weekend of stages due to a muscle problem sparked by a crash on stage 1. He has recently been training at altitude on Mount Teide.
"My preparation is going as planned. I've completely recovered from the problem at the Volta a Catalunya, and I've been training without any particular problem," Aru confirmed.
"I've taken part in the Giro del Trentino twice (2013 and 2014), but this will be my first time at the Tour of the Alps. We'll face plenty of climbing. The aim is being at the start with good legs; it is impossible to foresee what will happen during the race”.
"Making a prediction about the race now is very difficult. I know the rivals I will face during the Tour of the Alps. As well as Froome there's also Thibaut Pinot. I was a teammate of Miguel Angel Lopez for several years at Astana, while I often see Pozzovivo out training in Lugano. I am going to keep a watchful eye on them all!"
Teams for the 2018 Tour of the Alps:
AG2R-La Mondiale (France)
Astana Pro Team (Kazakhstan)
Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team (Bahrain)
Dimension Data (South Africa)
Team Sky (Great Britain)
UAE-Emirates (United Arab Emirates)
Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec (Italy)
Israel Cycling Academy (Israel)
Nippo-Vini Fantini (Italy)
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Italy)
Tirol Cycling Team (Austria)
Team Felbermayr-Simplon (Austria)