Danilo Di Luca believes the 2009 World Championships course he tested yesterday in Mendrisio, Switzerland, will allow him a chance to win the famed rainbow jersey.
"It's a very hard course, certainly the hardest in the last 10 years. It is suited to my characteristics, the last climb is only two kilometres from the arrival. If I have the condition I had at the Giro d'Italia I will have a chance at victory," he told Cyclingnews.
Italians Di Luca, Alessandro Ballan, Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Stefano Garzelli, Filippo Pozzato, Vincenzo Nibali and Giovanni Visconti rode three laps of the course followed by national director Franco Ballerini.
"If my condition is what it was at the Giro then I will certainly be the captain."
"In the past there have been some other hard courses, like in Columbia or Agrigento, but this is 13.8 kilometres long and so there will be a lot of laps, and 4655 metres of climbing. There will never be a chance to relax and you will always need to be at the front, ready to fight."
Cyclists will repeat Mendrisio's course 19 times for a total of 262.2 kilometres. Each lap contains the Acqua Fresca climb (1600 meters long, with the last 780 meters averaging above 10%) and the Novazzano climb (1750m long).
"The first one has a really hard section, but the second climb also has a pretty stiff gradient, then it eases off and starts again. At the end of 262 kilometres and 38 climbs, the course will be very difficult."
Di Luca named Spain's Alejandro Valverde as his number one rival because "he is so fast on these types of climbs." He also noted Luxembourg's Fränk and Andy Schleck
Di Luca has not raced the Worlds since he helped Paolo Bettini win the 2006 title in Salzburg, Austria. Ballerini assured him of a spot last year when he left Di Luca off the team.
"If my condition is what it was at the Giro then I will certainly be the captain. We will see if there will be a co-captain, depending on the others' conditions in August and September."
Di Luca led the Giro d'Italia last month for seven days. Russian Denis Menchov took the leader's jersey from Di Luca in the Cinque Terre time trial and held it to the end. Di Luca finished second overall at only 41 seconds back.
Italy has won the World Championships for the last three years: 2006 and 2007 with Bettini and 2009 with Ballan.