By Shane Stokes in Palermo
Defending champion Danilo Di Luca is at the Giro d'Italia aiming to repeat his success of 2007 and, despite some tough times in recent months over doping allegations, said that he was fully concentrated on the task at hand.
"I am very tranquil, I am at one hundred percent," he stated at a pre-race press conference. "I am fully focussed. Two or three months ago, I showed that I am very clear of mind and I prepared myself like I wanted. Then when I knew about the decision [being cleared of doping in last year's race] I was more relaxed. But everyone who knows me knows that I was very confident."
When asked who his main rivals would be for the general classification, 'the Killer' said that the two who flanked him at the press conference would be his main favourites. "I think [Alberto] Contador and [Denis] Menchov," he said, "as well as [Gilberto] Simoni. I think that Denis is in good shape. He was very good in the Tour of Romandie and I don't think he would be here if he is not ready. And as for Alberto, I am sure after ten days we will see what kind of champion he is. And if he is not on top form, I am sure he will work for [Andreas] Klöden."
Di Luca was always known as a strong Classics rider, but last year he proved that he could also climb well in the high mountains. He was asked if there was one stage in particular that was interesting for him, but he said that it was impossible to pick just one.
"It is more difficult than last year to say that," he answered. "There are a lot of good stages, very difficult ones, which can bring a lot of surprises. You can't have crisis, because if you have one, you lose."
Early on, he has two objectives. "If the team time trial was like last year, we could win," he said, speaking of the day one test. "But because it is totally flat, it will be good if we are in the first five teams, with a gap of 20 seconds to the winner.
"I hope also that the stage near my home goes well. Two years ago I won a stage and took the pink jersey near home. It's not important for me to get the jersey so early, but they [his supporters] will all be waiting for me there and so I hope to win the stage.