Ryan Mullen looks on course to make his Grand Tour debut later this year at the Giro d'Italia. The Irishman, who signed for Trek-Segafredo in the winter, has one eye on the opening time trial in Jerusalem.
"I'm hopeful to start the Giro with its TT start. It's 10km in Jerusalem and it's partly the reason I'd be going," Mullen told Cyclingnews at the Volta ao Alagarve.
"I prefer longer time trials, to be honest, but I'll take a TT start over a mountain start."
A start in the Giro this spring would represent Mullen's first Grand Tour appearance. Illness scuppered his chances in 2016, and last year – his final season with Cannondale – he narrowly missed the cut for the Tour de France.
"In 2016 I was a really shit bike rider because of my health problems," he said. "I was anaemic and had all that stuff. Then last year I was on the long-list for the Tour, and it came down to me and Taylor Phinney for the last spot. Honestly, it would have been nice to ride, but I wasn't 'this sucks I'm not at the Tour de France'. I felt like Taylor did a better job than I would have done, so the team picked correctly."
Mullen won his first time trial of the year at the Vuelta a San Juan in January to kick start his career at Trek. He came into the Volta ao Algarve with high hopes of a competitive performance in the race's 20.3km test, but his dreams unravelled due to a puncture. The 24-year-old still managed 24th place on a course that wasn't ideal for him, but with Tirreno-Adriatico on his calendar he will have another chance to impress against the clock in March.
"I go to Belgium next week for Omloop and Kuurne and then to Tirreno, as the last TT there should be good for me,” he said.
"At the time trial here I punctured after 1.4km and changed bikes. That immediately cost me around 35 seconds. On that type of TT course I knew that I couldn’t lose one second if I was going to try and get near the podium. When you immediately lose 30, it's day over before you've really started.
"I was really motivated," Mullen said. "The course wasn't perfect for me, it was a good distance but for someone my size, I would have preferred something a lot flatter. It was still a nice TT. It was technical and good for the crowds watching, but with all the big names here it would have been nice to have seen how I would have done on a course that didn't suit me."
Mullen moved to Trek from Cannondale-Drapac during the off-season and was signed due to his abilities against the clock and his promise in the Spring Classics. He will feature heavily on the cobbles this year for the team, but he said that part of the move to Trek - from his side at least - was down to equipment.
"I've enjoyed it. This is obviously the first time I've moved WorldTour teams, but the transition was really easy. I fit in really well, I think," he said.
"The equipment is honestly part of the reason why I moved. I needed to go somewhere where the equipment ticked all the right boxes and that's how it is here. I can slide into the Classics team, too."