The inaugural Adriatica Ionica Race (June 20-24) provides Tour de France participants with one last stage-race hit-out before the start of the Grande Boucle on July 7. For many, this will be their last race before their respective national championships the week before the Tour.
Sixteen teams, each made up of seven riders, will participate in the new UCI 2.1-ranked stage race, which is based around Venice and the Veneto, on Italy's northern shores of the Adriatic Sea. The majority of the teams are UCI Professional Continental squads, including Nippo-Vini Fantini, led by Damiano Cunego in his penultimate race before retirement, and the Israel Cycling Academy team, featuring Australia's Nathan Earle and Israel's Guy Niv, who garnered plenty of attention at the recent Giro d'Italia when it started in his home country.
An Italian national team will feature Matteo Trentin, who ordinarily rides for Mitchelton-Scott, but who will make a return to racing having fractured his spine in a crash at Paris-Roubaix in April.
Five WorldTour teams – Quick-Step Floors, Bahrain-Merida, UAE Team Emirates, Trek-Segafredo and Dimension Data – will be on the start line, with the latter featuring Mark Cavendish, who will be keen for a stretch of his legs at speed before he rides the British National Championships and targets stage wins and the green jersey at the Tour de France.
Cavendish will be up against Quick-Step's Elia Viviani who, while not set to ride the Tour, is coming off the back of winning the sprinter's jersey at the Giro d'Italia, and should still have some zip in his legs.
The sprinters will target victories on stages 2, 4 and 5, although the undulating nature of all three stages will mean that teams' domestiques will have their work cut out to deliver their men to the line.
The Passo Giau, as a summit finish on a tough stage 3, will be the star of the show, and could provide a springboard for the overall victory for the likes of Trek-Segafredo's Peter Stetina, who is set to ride the Tour de France having fought back from a broken collarbone caused by a training crash in late May.
Other challengers for the overall include Dimension Data's Nic Dlamini, who won the mountains jersey at this year's Tour Down Under, Bahrain-Merida's Giovanni Visconti, Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), and perhaps Moreno Moser, who, like Trentin, is riding the race for the Italian national squad, while Stetina's Trek-Segafredo teammate Jarlinson Pantano could also be a contender, looking to sharpen his form for the Tour, too.
Much will depend on the 23.3km opening team time trial from San Donà di Piave to Lido di Jesolo, just outside Venice. Although the length of the stage won't provide huge time gaps, it will be important for riders targeting the GC to nab as many seconds over their rivals as possible to take into stage 3 and the Passo Giau.
This opening TTT stage will also provide excellent training for those participating in the Tour just two weeks later as, despite being a little shorter, it replicates the 35.5km stage 3 team time trial in Cholet.