Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) says he has fully recovered from a stomach upset that knocked him out of the running in his first stage race of the season, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and is raring to go in the Ruta del Sol, which starts today.
Pinot completed the five days of racing in Valencia but was well down in 106th place. Today's and tomorrow's very hilly finales in Andalucia, as well as Friday's short, technical time trial, offer ideal opportunities to test his form.
"I was ill there, so I had a difficult week," he told Cyclingnews before the Ruta del Sol started. "But I like the route here, there are two or three tricky early stages and I'll be able to test my form relative to the big favourites like Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
"You never know, and I don't ever come to a race just to ride round," he added. "But with the illness, we'll try and get back on track for Tirreno-Adriatico at the latest. If I could get a stage win here, that would be ideal.
"I had a good training ride on Wednesday here [near the race start near Malaga] but there are no easy races these days. Even an event like this is like a mini version of Paris-Nice or Tirreno."
Pinot was unaware that there has never been a French winner of the Ruta del Sol. In fact, the last podium finisher on the early Spanish stage race was Laurent Jalabert in the mid-1990s. "That makes it a nice objective," he added with a smile.
Pinot's first part of the season will continue with the Strade Bianche, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Alps (formerly called the Giro del Trentino), as well as an altitude training block in early April.
"It's a very classic approach," he said. "They've changed the name of Trentino but also the team time trial and mountain stages are much longer than before, so I think it's going to be the ideal build-up for the Giro."