Vincenzo Nibali, 24, dreams of riding to the top of the Tour de France this July after a strong performance in the Dauphiné Libéré last week.
"Finishing in the first ten would be like a win for me," he told Cyclingnews from a high-altitude training camp in Livigno, Italy.
Sicilian born Nibali rode consistently in his debut Tour de France in 2008, finishing 18th overall. He finished ninth in the Cholet time trial and tenth on the mountain stage to Hautacam. He lost ground in the final week, but still managed to finish second overall in the young riders' classification.
"The most difficult day is Mont Ventoux"
He proved he is on target for 2009 with his ride in the week-long Dauphiné Libéré stage race., where he battled the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans to finish seventh overall.
"I had a chance to see my rivals' preparations are going before the Tour de France. I was not far off in the Dauphiné and I am working to get closer and closer for the Tour de France."
Nibali listed Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Fränk and Andy Schleck, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov as the overall favourites. Menchov just won the Giro d'Italia stage race, where he was up against Liquigas teammate Franco Pellizotti, Sastre and Armstrong.
"Armstrong will arrive in top form for this Tour. He had only a month of recovery after his broken collarbone and still he went so strong at the Giro d'Italia."
Nibali considered himself and Liquigas teammates Roman Kreuziger and Pellizotti to rank among the favourites too. "I can see that Pellizotti is going pretty well in training and I think he will do well at the Tour. The only thing is whether he can handle two big races, and if he can recover in time."
The Tour de France, July 4 to 26, starts in Monaco with a 15-kilometre time trial. The first mountains are in days seven (Andorra), eight (Saint-Girons) and nine (Tarbes). The final three mountain stages come in the third week, in the Alpes.
"The most difficult day is Mont Ventoux on the penultimate day. It will give a good shake to the classification."
Nibali races the Giro dell'Appennino, June 24, and the Italian Championships, June 28, before travelling to Monaco for the start of the Tour de France.