Italy's Franco Pellizotti makes his season debut on home roads at the Giro del Friuli on Wednesday, but his 2010 season is firmly built around winning the Giro d'Italia.
Pellizotti is one of the four stage race leaders at Liquigas-Doimo, along with Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. There was tension in the Italian team last year about who was the leader at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. This year the leadership roles have been clearly defined and with the Giro packed with tough climbs, Pellizotti has been named as leader on equal terms with Basso.
At 32, and after ten years as a professional, 'Peli' is convinced he is now at his best. He has worn the maglia rosa but never won the Giro d'Italia.
"My big goal is to win it this year. After Friuli, I'll ride Eroica, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo, but everything is aimed at being my best for the Giro," he told Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday.
"Last year I finished on the podium behind Menchov and Di Luca. Now I'm 32 and I think my moment has come. All my season will be built around the Giro d'Italia and I'll be at 100 per cent."
"I know a lot of people want to win the Giro but I really like the course. I won’t be penalised by the time trials this year. There's the mountain time trial to Plan des Corones but I've won that in the past. This year the final week will be tough and decisive because there are climbs like the Zoncolan, Gavia and Mortirolo."
Pellizotti picks Spain's Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) as his perhaps biggest rival. He insists that he and Basso will race together and not against each other.
"This year's Giro suits Sastre. He's a lightweight climber who goes well on the really tough climbs. He'll be a big threat. There's also Cadel Evans. He's a real fighter and will be proudly wearing the rainbow jersey. Basso is also a favourite and then we'll have to see what riders like Alexandre Vinokourov can do."
"Me and Ivan have got the same objective but we're intelligent enough to understand that we're stronger as a team. I'm not worried about being in the same teams as Basso at the Giro. Of course I can see that he's more considered by the press and I don't really understand that, but I put up with it. But I'm confident I'm going to have a good year."
Italian championships and the Tour de France
After the Giro d'Italia, Pellizotti will target the Italian national championships in June. The race will be held in Conegliano, in the Friuli region, close to Pellizotti's hometown.
"I tried the course on Monday and it’s for riders who are good on the climbs. It's on my home roads and so it's definitely a target for me," he said.
Last year Pellizotti failed to win a stage at the Tour de France but rode aggressively and secured victory in the climber's competition, pulling on the polka-dot jersey in Paris.
"Like last year, I'm going to take things day by day at the Tour," he explained. "Kreuziger, Basso and Nibali will be going for overall success and I'll help them. My personal goal is a stage win and I'll go for the polka-dot jersey again."