Two of the favourites for this year's Giro d'Italia and many of the riders who will be in action during the first Grand Tour of the season, will ride next week's four-day Giro del Trentino in the mountains between Lake Garda and the Val di Non, east of Trento and Bolzano.
While many of the Tour de France contenders will be in action in the Ardennes, Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Fabio Aru (Astana) will fight for the fuchsia-coloured leader's jersey and test their form just two weeks before the Giro d’Italia starts in San Remo on May 9.
The Giro del Trentino has joined forces with the organisers of the Trofeo Melinda race and will visit the Val di Non valley where millions of apples are grown every year.
The race begins on Monday with a pan-flat 13.3km team time trial from Riva del Garda to Arco at the northern tip of the huge Italian lake. The rest of the race is in the hills and mountains with finishes at Brentonico, Val Dei Mocheni and Cles. Thursday’s stage ends with a 7.5km climb that has an average gradient of 10 per cent. Cadel Evans won a stage and the overall classification in 2014.
Italy's Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will wear number one after finishing second overall last year. He is expected to again be a contender but Porte and Aru are the big-name contenders
Porte recently won the Volta a Catalunya and before that Paris-Nice. He had a difficult 2014 and missed the Giro d’Italia but seems to be back to his best and is expected to be competitive against the other big-name Giro d’Italia contenders such as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep).
Porte will be backed by a strong Team Sky squad that includes Philip Deignan, Leopold König, David Lopez and Kanstantsin Siutsou.
Like Porte, Aru recently completed an important altitude training camp at Teide in Tenerife. He again has raced little this season, just 15 days so far, but has been focusing on climbing and time trial training. The Giro del Trentino will show if he is on track for the Giro d'Italia.
Hesjedal leads Cannondale-Garmin
Also on the provisional start list are 2102 Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal and his Cannondale-Garmin teammates Davide Formolo and Joe Dombrowski. Tour de France podium finisher and recent Criterium International winner Jean-Christophe Peraud leads the Ag2r-La Mondiale team, while South Africa's Louis Meintjes leads the MTN-Qhubeka team after winning the recent Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.
An Italian national team will also be in action as new national coach continues to push to test and develop Under 23 riders in professional races. The young Italians will have 38 year-old Gent-Wevelgem winner Luca Paolini as their road captain. There will also be a Tirol Cycling team, representing riders from the Tyrol area.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the race.