When the 102nd edition of the Giro d'Italia gets under way on May 11, 176 riders from 22 different teams will gather in Bologna ahead of the opening grand tour of the season.
While some will be hoping to make names for themselves with stage victories, others will look to light up the long – and perhaps languorous – days with aggressive riding as they pursue an elusive breakaway win.
And then there are the lightest of heavyweights: the general classification riders, those who carry the weight of expectation on their often narrow, though almost always fragile, shoulders.
After studying the starting list and having watched hundreds of hours of racing throughout the early part of the season, Telegraph Sport has whittled the expansive list down to a select group of just six who it believes may win the coveted maglia rosa in Verona on June 2.
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Nationality: Great Britain
Best result: 21st (2018)
After blowing up in the most dramatic fashion during last year's race the Bury-born rider returns to Italy this month more determined than ever to add the Giro d'Italia to his increasingly impressive palmarès.
Speaking ahead of the opening grand tour of the season, Yates admitted to having "unfinished business at the Giro", saying the thought of winning the maglia rosa, the pink jersey awarded to the winner, had been his main motivating factor throughout the winter months.
Yates won a stage at the Ruta del Sol before claiming the first time trial of his career at Paris-Nice in March. Had a race-free month in April after finishing 13th at Volta a Catalunya where he was riding in support of twin brother Adam and will now, presumably, arrive in Bologna fresh. Will lean on strongmen Jack Bauer, Luke Durbridge and Christopher Juul-Jensen during the early – and flatter – stages before mountain domestiques Esteban Chaves and Mikel Nieve take up the reins in the latter third of the, extremely mountainous, race.
Mitchelton-Scott team: Jack Bauer (NZ), Brent Bookwalter (US), Esteban Chaves (Col), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Lucas Hamilton (Aus), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Mikel Nieve (Spa), Simon Yates (GB).
Best result: 58th (2016)
What a start to the season the 29-year-old Slovenian has had. Three stage races starts – UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie – has resulted in three winners' jerseys along with four stage victories. Little wonder the bookmakers have installed the Jumbo-Visma rider as their favourite to win, and this despite having raced the Giro just once.
Roglic's rise through the ranks has been impressive and despite coming to the sport late, the former ski-jumper has improved with each season and just missed out on a podium place at last year's Tour de France. Will be interesting to see how Roglic copes with the additional pressure of being favourite rather than a dark horse, though one imagines his famously laid-back demeanour will suit the role perfectly.
Has a decent team of support riders, though the loss of the hugely experienced Robert Gesink, who suffered a broken pelvis during a crash at last month's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, may prove costly.
Jumbo-Visma team: Koen Bouwman (Hol), Laurens De Plus (Bel), Sepp Kuss (US), Tom Leezer (Hol), Paul Martens (Ger), Primoz Roglic (Slo), Antwan Tolhoek (Hol), Jos van Emden (Hol).
Best result: Winner (2017)
The popular Dutchman may have had relatively quiet year thus far, but will arrive at the Giro having raced roughly the same programme as he did a year ago when he went on to finish as runner-up to Chris Froome. One of just two former winners on the start line – the other being Vincenzo Niabli – Dumoulin knows exactly what he needs to do to keep hold of the maglia rosa all the way to the finish line.
In a race that is heavily backloaded with climbing most of which comes in the third and final week, may be targeted by rivals who, despite his record, perceive him to be one of the weakest climbers on the steepest of slopes when the gradients go high into the double digits. However, has proved time and again that he has the power and patience to cope when the pressure is on. Would be a huge disappointment if Dumoulin did not make the podium and the former world champion will hope to benefit from the three time trials organisers have included.
Sunweb team: Jan Bakelants (Bel), Tom Dumoulin (Hol), Chad Haga (US), Chris Hamilton (Aus), Jai Hindley (Aus), Sam Oomen (Hol), Robert Power (Aus), Louis Vervaeke (Bel).
Best result: Winner (2013 and 2016)
At 34, Nibali may be considered a little too old to mix it up with the emerging talent from the next generation. However, as one of just seven riders to have won all three grand tours – the others being Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome – Nibali knows a thing or two about navigating his way through the choppy waters towards the top step of the podium. Not for nothing is he nicknamed 'the Shark'.
Has not won a race since last year's Milan-Sanremo, but gradual improvements throughout the season saw Nibali take the third step on the podium at the recent Tour of the Alps – née Giro del Trentino – behind Ineos tyros Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart who will, perhaps ominously, ride as co-leaders for the British team in Italy this month. The veteran may have exhibited fallibility since his last grand tour win in 2016, but dismiss the Bahrain-Merida leader at your peril.
Bahrain-Merida team: Valerio Agnoli (Ita), Grega Bole (Slo), Damiano Caruso (Ita), Andrea Garosio (Ita), Kristijan Koren (Slo), Antonio Nibali (Ita), Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita).
Miguel Ángel López
Best result: Third and youth classification winner (2018)
After getting his season off to a fine start at Colombia 2.1 (née Colombia Oro y Paz) where he beat a strong field featuring compatriots Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán, the man they call 'Superman' went on to claim a quite superlative win at the recent Volta a Catalunya despite repeated attacks from his rivals. Arrives at the Giro buoyed by recent results and will hope to improve on his third-place finish at last year's Giro where he also added the young rider classification to his palmarès.
Backed by arguably the strongest team in Italy – along with Deceuninck-Quick Step, Astana have been one of the strongest teams of the season – López will have alongside him Spanish mountain domestique Ion Izagirre who himself has chalked up impressive wins at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Tour of the Basque Country, making him the perfect go to man should López's challenge falter.
Astana team: Pello Bilbao (Spa), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Dario Cataldo (Ita), Jan Hirt (Cze), Ion Izagirre (Spa), Miguel Ángel López (Col), Davide Villella (Ita), Andrey Zeits (Kaz).
Best result: 17th and mountain classification winner (2017)
Could this be the year Mikel Landa finally cracks it and wins himself a grand tour? Movistar appear appear to think so. Sort of. Not for the first time the management at his Spanish team has selected not one, but two potential general classification contenders after also naming Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz in their final line-up. The Spaniard arrives in reasonable form having finished fourth at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race and seventh at last month's Tour of the Basque Country, while a top-10 place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège will have given the 29-year-old a further confidence boost.
Carapaz, however, has raced more miles and posted more wins – a stage and the overall at this month's Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo – which may just give him the edge over Landa. Carapaz, too, also finished fourth at last year's Giro on only his first appearance at the race which may, or may not, play on the mind of Landa. In Carapaz and Landa Movistar has two potential winners, and once again it will be fascinating to see how the dynamic between the team-mates plays out.
Movistar team: Andrey Amador (Crc), Richard Carapaz (Ecu), Héctor Carretero (Spa), Mikel Landa (Spa), Lluís Mas (Spa), Antonio Pedrero (Spa), José Joaquín Rojas (Spa), Jasha Sütterlin (Ger).