Cadel Evans (BMC) will look to test his form and specifically his climbing ability in this week's Giro del Trentino in Italy as the days tick down to the Giro d'Italia - his big Grand Tour goal of the 2014 season.
Evans turned 37 on Saint Valentine's Day but attended the pre-race press conference with the same enthusiasm as when he made his Giro d'Italia debut back in 2002.
Evans and Michele Scarponi (Astana) were the only riders present at the pre-race event. They have two very different palmares but happily swapped praise and friendly provocations.
"I'm here to work for my first big goal of the season: the Giro d'Italia. The Giro del Trentino is always a good way to test your form for the Giro thanks to the mountains and the TTT. It's a dress rehearsal for BMC this year," Evans said.
Evans started the 2014 with a bang, finishing second at the Australian national championships and then won a stage and was second overall behind Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) at the Santos Tour Down Under. He struggled at Tirreno-Adriatico and quit the race after the key mountain stages but worked hard at home and finished seventh overall at the recent Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
"I started the season almost with a win at the Tour Down Under. I couldn't hold that form when I came back to Europe but it was important to stay healthy and do some hard work. I was where I wanted to be at Pais Vasco. I didn't go close to victory but I feel I'm getting there," he explained.
This will be a test of my climbing in the big mountains. I'll be looking for results. I'm sure Scarpa (Scarponi) will be a favourite but so will the others."
Giro d'Italia team
The BMC team for the Giro del Trentino includes four teammates that will also help Evans challenge for the maglia rosa in the Giro d'Italia: Yannick Eijssen, Brent Bookwalter, Steve Morabito and local rider Daniel Oss. Also in the squad for the four-day race are Rick Zabel and Sebastian Lander.
BMC will test their team time trial skills in Tuesday's 13.4km TTT from Riva del Garda to Arco, at the northern tip of Lake Garda. BMC will be hoping to challenge Team Sky, Movistar, Cannondale and Astana.
Evans predicted the Friday's final mountain stage to the summit of the legendary Monte Bondone will decide the overall winner of this year's Giro del Trentino.
"With all the mountain finish on the other three stages, the time gaps in the team time trial could be something or nothing. But I think we'll see small gaps. For us it'll be an important test for the Giro d'Italia TTT."
"The finish on the Bondone will be the decisive but all the other climbs will play a part, too. It's going to be a hard week of racing but it's just what we need."