The Giro del Trentino will feature a number of big names next week (April 20-23), with Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and Riccardo Riccò (Ceramica Flaminia) among those scheduled to take on the mountainous race through north-eastern Italy. Gilberto Simoni could also use the event as his swansong, should he confirm a temporary contract with Lampre-Farnese Vini this week.
Vinokourov will use the event to tune-up for his second Grand Tour appearance since returning from a doping suspension in August last year.
"It's important for my preparation and the approach to the Giro d’Italia," said Vinokourov. "The very difficult stages of Giro del Trentino correspond to those in the Giro. I really expect Trentino to help my build better shape and get a gauge of the opponents I'll meet few days afterwards at the Giro d’Italia."
Also on the comeback trail is Riccardo Riccò. The Ceramica Flaminia rider is fresh off two stage wins at the Settimana Lombarda, where he finished second overall. With his team not invited to the Giro d'Italia, Riccò indicated that Trentino will take on greater significance.
"Giro del Trentino is the first major goal of the season for me and I will fight for a good position in the overall classification," he said. "I know my condition is growing but I still need to test myself on the mountains against the major riders."
Race organisers hinted that Gilberto Simoni might take part in the race, possibly for Lampre-Farnese Vini. A press release issued on Wednesday said that 38-year-old Simoni was, "looking forward to contesting the Giro del Trentino as the last race of his brilliant career," and that "Lampre is expected to confirm his situation in the next few days."
Defending champion Ivan Basso and Franco Pellizotti will ride for Liquigas. The Italian duo will face-off against a host of strong climbers, including Michele Scarponi (Androni-Diquigiovanni), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), Tadej Valjavec (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Josè Rujano (ISD-Neri) and Michael Rasmussen (Miche).
The four stage race opens with a 12.5 kilometre time trial, followed by the Queen stage, which includes the Category 1 Passo Broccon and a mountain-top finish at the San Martino di Castrozza. Stage three will give the sprinters their chance, while the closing final stage has another mountain-top finish at the Alpe di Pampeago.
Despite two tough days of climbing, a number of top Italian sprinters will contest the stage three finale. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Danilo Napolitano (Katusha), Alberto Loddo (Androni-Diquigiovanni) and Roberto Ferrari (De Rosa-Stac Plastic) are all scheduled to start.
Former world champion Alessandro Ballan had been originally scheduled to ride the rice, but has since been placed on inactive status by BMC Racing Team.
There will be 21 teams in the race, with five from the ProTour: Liquigas-Doimo, Astana, Lampre-Farnese Vini, Ag2R-La Mondiale, and Katusha.
The 11 Professional Continental teams are: BMC Racing Team, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Acqua and Sapone, Androni-Diquigiovanni, ISD-Neri, Colnago-CSF Inox, Ceramica Flaminia, De Rosa-Stac Plastic, Vorarlberg-Corratec, Skil-Shimano, and Carmiooro-NGC. Five Continental teams complete the line-up: Miche, Mroz Active Jet, Team NetApp, Adria Mobil and Tyrol Team.