- Stephen Farrand
Wiggins, Nibali Evans and Basso clash in the four-day Italian stage race
This year's Giro del Trentino is set to be the best version in the 37 editions of the race, with many of the Giro d'Italia contenders using the race in the Dolomites to fine-tune their form and checkout their rivals just two weeks before the Corsa Rosa begins in Naples.
Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) leads the list of big-name contenders on the stellar start list. But the Briton faces some serious opposition during the four days of intense racing from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), 2012 overall winner Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Fabio Duarte (Colombia), Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar) and Mateo Rabottini (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).
Other riders to watch for include Stefano Garzelli (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing Team) as he returns from an early-season crash, and Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli). Also in action are the Champion System team and MTN-Qhubeka from Africa.
Last year Pozzovivo won overall, using his pure climbing skills to win stage three, while Darwin Atapuma (Colombia) won the tough finish on the Passo Pordoi.
Racing through the Dolomites
This year's route follows a similar format to 2012 and is again a breathtaking trip through the Dolomites, with two tough mountain stages and a third mountain stage packed with shorter climbs.
The racing begins on Tuesday in the Austrian town of Lienz, close to the border with Italy and in the heart of the Tyrol area. A 128km morning road race stage covers a loop south Lienz, with a late climb and a fast descent to the finish setting up a thrilling finale. Riders then have to recover for a 14.1km afternoon team time trial around Lienz. While the road stage will likely see the sprinters fight for success, the 'cronosquadre' will be vital for the rider targeting overall victory.
The racing heads south and into Italy on stage 2 with the 225km route from Sillian to Vetriolo Terme. The stage includes the 12km-long Passo Lavaze at an altitude of 1800 metres and then ends with another 12km climb to the finish on an average gradient of 7.4%.
Stage three from Pergine Valsugana to Condino is a little easier but includes four climbs and a descent to the finish. The short but intense Giro del Trentino stage race ends on Friday with the 166km stage from Arco to Sega di Ala. The climb to the finish is more than 11km long, with some early sections with double-digit gradients. It will be a real test for Wiggins' climbing prowess and for those riders hoping to discover his climbing weaknesses at the Giro d'Italia.