Richie Porte (BMC Racing) will be looking to set the tone for the rest of his season with a strong performance in the 9.9km uphill time trial at the Tour de Romandie on Friday. With just two more stage races - including Romandie - before his Tour de France challenge in July, Porte is aware that an impressive ride in the Romandie TT will provide a much-needed boost in confidence after a difficult few months.
Porte came into the Tour de Romandie without a win since a stage at the Tour Down Under, and he has seen his form affected by illness throughout the spring. He was forced to miss Tirreno-Adriatico in March before pulling out of the Vuelta al País Vasco on the final day of racing.
"The Tour Down Under was the last time I was in really good shape. I went to Pais Vasco and got an absolute thumping and that wasn't good for the morale, even though that was the reason I was there," Porte told Cyclingnews ahead of the time trial.
"That's not where you want to be, and this is a crucial year with the Tour, so now's the time to get it together."
Porte's case of flu in March not only hit his form but also contributed to a change in race programme. Pais Vasco and Romandie were brought in, while he and his wife are expecting their first child next month. It's a busy time on and off the bike, and while defending his Romandie crown isn't the most important priority, testing himself against some of his Tour de France rivals certainly is.
"For me, the time trial a good marker to see where I'm at. I wouldn't say that this race is crucial, because I still don't know where I'm at, but it's going to show me. I'd say I'd look at both the performance and the result," he said.
"It's not often that we get a time trial like this. It's a bit like Col d'Eze in Paris-Nice and I like that kind of thing. I don't know the climb though. I remember watching Larry Warbasse win there at the Tour de Suisse but that's about it. I'll look at it beforehand though in order to get a better understanding."
Porte would be considered one of the favourites for Friday's Romandie stage if he were on top form. The uphill climb averages around eight per cent but kicks up in the middle before a more gradual approach to the line.
However, race leader Primoz Roglic comes into the stage as the overwhelming favourite. Porte currently sits 13 seconds off the lead, and in ninth place, but the long-term aim remains the same: peak for the Tour de France.
"Going forward, the Tour is still a long way out. The TT is really about confidence for me. If I have a good day then it will show that I'm heading back to where I need to be."
BMC have other cards to play in the race. Rohan Dennis currently sits second on GC but on the same time as Roglic. The Australian is targeting the Giro d'Italia next month, although he has not put a number on his precise GC ambitions. Dennis finished fourth in the opening prologue.